Jonathan Grahm began working in the world of chocolate when he was 15 years old. Nine years later, he bought the Compartes Company and has overseen its expansion and rise in acclaim since. The original Compartes, in LA’s Brentwood, was a shop and kitchen that spanned about 1,500 square feet. Now, in addition to its Century City location, the brand has opened a flagship chocolate boutique and factory on La Brea. It’s here that Grahm’s vision for a chocolate haven has become a reality.
The luxuriously designed chocolate shop (complete with custom marble display cases) features a large glass wall that bisects the space, revealing the mesmerizing chocolate-making process. Customers watch as glistening melted chocolate gets formed into custom confections by skilled employees. Truffle fillings are carefully added by hand, and as each item sets, they are sprung from their molds, packaged, and shipped from the shop. We met with Grahm to discuss the new location and how he continues making chocolate dreams come true.
Can you tell us about how and why you chose this location?
I wanted to be more in central Los Angeles. Opening here on La Brea, in the middle of town, creates a destination that people can come from all over the city. I thought about how many people drive by here all day, every day, and how often I drive on La Brea. It puts us smack dab in the middle of LA.
Why was this the right time to make an investment in such a luxe retail and production space?
Compartes has been growing every year. We had outgrown our Brentwood facility—probably to the point that we were almost on top of each other. We’ve had this building for about two years before we opened. The stars aligned on getting this property. I designed the whole space, the chocolate store and the chocolate factory. Streamlining the production, that was another thing that was really important to me. Creating a factory where we start making the chocolate then package the chocolate and it goes right out to the shipping room. So it’s really a linear path.
How are you utilizing this larger space?
I did many sketches over time. I also came and tested it many times to see where the sunlight would be. I brought my whole staff here last Christmas to show them what I was dreaming about. We all sat here and talked about it. We did many practice runs with no equipment and no machinery. I got feedback from all of our staff about what’s going to be the most efficient and work the best.
Why did you want to allow the chocolate-making process to be so visible?
I wanted it to feel when you walk into the chocolate store that you’re walking into the chocolate factory. When you walk in, there’s a 60-foot glass wall making the space feel really large. We always say that the chocolate-making is the heartbeat of Compartes and that is something that we haven’t really been able to showcase before. It’s about the chocolate, the beautiful ingredients, the caramelized pecans, the doughnuts from Primo’s, the birthday cake we get from local bakeries. When you walk in and you see them making a doughnut bar on the left, and on the right you can pick up a bar that was just made, it’s an incredible feeling.
What was your motivation in filling the space with marble and brass?
I really wanted to do this store in natural tones, so that the packaging would stand out. Then that blue marble that we have is incredible. I went to 40 or 50 different marble yards just to find it. I wanted to choose one material rather than go overboard, so the store is basically made of marble. Then there’s the white plaster—I wanted to showcase the marble and add texture. We did the black acid-wash on the floors, that mirrors the plaster. That also mirrors the acid-washed mirrors in the factory. I wanted the whole place to feel cohesive. I didn’t want to have a beautiful store and then just a plain factory. Using that beautiful blue marble in the chocolate factory was definitely a luxurious expense.
In addition to your truffles, dipped fruits and original line of chocolate bars, you have added a new line of chocolate—tell us about that.
Along with the store opening, we’re launching our vegan organic wellness line of chocolate, and that’s been two years in the making. I actually started by just playing with cocoa butter and raw cacao on my stove at home. I was going back to the basics of chocolate-making and really starting from scratch in creating this line. The vibe I am going for with those is gourmet nostalgia. In doing this line… I didn’t want to necessarily be indulgent. I wanted it to be really good for you.
I saw what’s already available and found that a lot of them have their benefits, but they’re all separate. One might be vegan, one might be paleo, one might be organic. I wanted to create an all-encompassing line for all health concerns. For people who are allergic to soy, for people that don’t want sugar. Then I wanted to add benefits to them: plant-based collagen, reishi mushrooms, or peanut butter. There are four clean ingredients in the chocolate and that is it.
What’s been your big takeaway since opening the new store?
This is my 20th anniversary year in my journey of making chocolate. The fact that my business is growing and people are still coming to me and I’m still creative and able to do new things all the time is really exciting. It amazes me still that every year, I wonder what’s this Christmas going to be like and then it blows up bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. I do what I love.
Images courtesy of Compartes