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Historic Dutch chocolate shop to become sweets store, vegan restaurant

By Hayley Fox
Published: Friday, June 29, 2012, at 12:29PM
Hayley Fox/blogdowntown

Every inch of the store is covered in specialty tiles. Right now, the space is filled with furniture.

The nearly century-old tile murals of the historic Dutch chocolate shop were recently uncovered in a store on 6th Street in downtown L.A. Now, plans are in place to renovate and expand the historic space to create a hot chocolate bar, sweets store and vegan restaurant.

Charles Aslan, who's leasing the location, says he wants to honor the shop's history by recalling many of its original functions.

"The heavens opened up five months ago," Aslan said regarding the opportunity to open the two-story store, adding that the one-of-a-kind, Ernest Batchelder tile murals that line the walls were discovered accidentally when paneling was removed.

The space has gone through multiple reincarnations since it first opened in the 1800s -- as a cafeteria, sweets store and even an arcade, and now Aslan is planning to use and expand the location to feature high-quality, organic goods.

There will be no marshmallows, whipped cream or syrups at the shop's hot chocolate bar, he said, as the authentic version of cocoa only has two ingredients: high quality chocolate and hot water.

This bar will be positioned toward the front of the shop and the rest of the tiled-wall space will be used as a communal seating area, for the sweets store located in back and the vegan restaurant to be built upstairs.

There are only a few details yet on these ventures, but Aslan said he will be interviewing local chefs as the opening -- which is on a "fast track" -- gets closer. He's also estimating hiring approximately 50 people to work all three portions of the store.

"Because it's a community place we want community people," he said -- adding that if possible, he'll keep the large seating area open 24 hours a day.

The DTLA building where the shop is located was built in the late 19th century and opened years later as the chocolate shop, said Linda Pollack, a local artist who's been documenting the murals and helping to facilitate community discussions around the discovery. She said that the artist Batchelder, an "extremely prolific tile maker," was commissioned to create pieces specifically for the space. He methodically researched Dutch life and produced 21 different murals depicting scenes of fishermen, the sea, ships and daily life, she said.

Aslan also said that he's working on carrying a line of Bragg's health food products, a company which used to inhabit the space in a previous incarnation.


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