Chocolati Café just got a little bit sweeter

by | Oct 29, 2010

After three years of preparation and a lot of elbow grease, the remodel of the Chocolati Café in Greenwood is complete with additional floor space, later business hours and “Movie Nights” every Monday at 7 p.m.

“We really just wanted to make it the neighborhood place,” said owner and entrepreneur Christian Wong, 34, as he ran around taking care of the day’s business in the new addition at 8319 Greenwood Ave. N. “The Greenwood area is lacking a larger café like this one.”

On top of those recent additions, Wong said that in the next few months he will be tripling his chocolate line, serving beer, pairing wine with his handmade chocolates, and organizing live music events for the Greenwood café.

Wong, who owns and operates all five Chocolati locations, said, “The Greenwood community is awesome – it’s like the cheers of coffee houses.”

Thomas Vanroosendaal, barista and Movie Nights coordinator, noted that “we have a lot of regulars – 50 percent of them I know by their first name. It’s just a great neighborhood with a small-town feel about it.”

Wong, whose plans for future Chocolati locations include “smaller stores with 12 seats or less,” said he will keep the Greenwood and Wallingford cafes large and “focused on community.”

In the middle of a caffeinated, late-night chat with Vanroosendaal, frequent customer Gale Kennedy said, “I like the employees – they really get to know you.”

Regular customer Gale Kennedy chats with Thomas Vanroosendaal, barista and “Movie Nights” coordinator.

Wong said he decided to expand the café because of the unique Greenwood culture, “different than all the others – so artsy and eclectic.”

He said he was creative during the expansion, which increased floor space to a total of 2,100 square feet, by enlisting the help of his baristas during “a lot of cleaning, painting and dumping.

“Yeah, we did most of this work ourselves,” he said, looking around the new meeting room once used for storage. The expanded rooms can be reserved for meetings, private parties or catered events.

“It’s an old building, and we’ve been patching it up a lot,” Wong explained. “But we tried to leave a lot of the integrity of the building – keep it fun.”

Wong even cleaned up and put an old, broken heater on display because of its “antique quality,” enhancing the vintage look of the place.

“They expanded but kept the intimacy and flavor of it,” Kennedy said as she eyed the light fixtures.

Vanroosendaal said customers can now get the “best of both worlds” – private rooms in the newly remodeled back wings and fast-paced service in the original coffee house up front.

But, in particular, he is “really proud of the colors, different rooms and the furniture.”

To cater more to students and the night crowd, Wong said he decided to increase the café’s hours to 11 p.m. every night of the week and introduce more entertainment options like “Movie Nights.”

“I’m happy about it,” said Vanroosendaal, who picks the movie based on seasonal themes. “First and foremost, we wanted to get people in here that wouldn’t normally enjoy the space.”

Next week’s “Movie Nights” will be on Monday, Nov. 1, and will feature “Night of the Living Dead” in honor of the passing holiday.

“We should have cracked this open a long time ago,” Wong said. “Business has already picked up with the added space.”

Tyler Steele is a journalism student at the University of Washington, and PhinneyWood’s new intern. All photos by Tyler Steele, except the panorama photo of the cafe is by Mike Veitenhans.

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