Navigating the orange cones and random barriers along University Avenue has become more and more challenging as the light rail project gets busier with digging and dump trucks and closed intersections. For Mary Leonard, the owner of Chocolat Céleste, an artisan choclate shop, the closing of University Avenue and Transfer Road came at just the wrong time. This is her busy season and it has become more complicated than finding cheese in a maze to make your way to her shop at 652 Transfer Road in St. Paul.
I was able to drive there from St. Anthony Park by getting on Pierce Butler West off of Snelling Avenue. That route curves west and then south, turning into Transfer Road near the Amtrak Station. Chocolat Céleste is located in an office building just one block north of University Avenue on Transfer Road. There is ample parking and a street level entrance.
Until last year her shop was located in St. Anthony Park on University Avenue near 280. “People think we closed,” says Leonard. Like other business owners along University Avenue, she worried about the impact of the light rail construction on her business. “I’m all for light rail but we couldn’t weather the transition.” The prospect of no parking for customers, proximity to a lot of dust and mess and a substantial loss of revenue motivated Leonard to relocate her business. However, she didn’t want to go far from her home turf and found the space she liked near but not on University Avenue.
The new space is light-filled and colorful with her signature pink décor (she also dresses in pink). She invested in a new kitchen where she makes her artisan chocolates using all fresh and ethically sourced ingredients. Leonard says that what sets her product apart is her use of top grade Swiss chocolate and high quality butter and cream produced in Minnesota. She doesn’t use preservatives in her chocolates and is busy right now making bonbons that will be fresh for the upcoming holidays.
Leonard’s bonbons come in imaginative flavors, custom designed and beautifully presented. The Pan Asian Collection offers flavors such as Cherry Blossom, Jasmine Creme and the intriguing Edible Pearl. Each bonbon is stenciled with curling flower tendrils in red, gold and jade green. Leonard will work with clients to design the look they want on the selction of chocolates they want.
Because Leonard uses top quality ingredients and pays a fair wage to her small staff, the prices are higher than you’d expect to pay for a box of chocolates at the grocery store. A box of two bittersweet chocolate ganache bonbons starts at $6. To encourage people to brave the traffic challenge, Leonard is offering ten percent off for people who stop by. She also sells online and will ship orders over $60 for free.
Chocolat Céleste is located at 652 Transfer Road, #16A Saint Paul, 55114. Because University Avenue is closed at the intersection with Transfer Road, it is best to take the Pierce Butler Route described above or call Mary Leonard for traffic updates and directions, (651) 644-3823.
Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Collaborative.
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