Blommer Chocolate Co.
“Can you smell that? It smells like…chocolate!” If you’ve ever passed through the West Loop or River West then you’ve likely uttered those very words. At first you’re confused: is someone baking brownies? But soon you realize the smell is encompassing the entire neighborhood. That’s a lot of brownies! No folks, that’s Blommer Chocolate Factory and it’s been enveloping the city in warm cocoa love since 1939.
The most famous candy provider in Chicago has always been Frango, supplying Marshall Field’s (now Macy’s) with it’s Frango Mints, a cliché gift for family, friends and coworkers. But since Frango’s facility split town, I’d like to discuss a lesser known chocolatier, occupying a strong presence in our city by nose more than site. Blommer’s Chocolate Co. has actually grown to be a massive chocolate producer for the entire country even outside Chicago, with additional facilities in California and Pennsylvania. But for our purposes we can focus on the Chicago institution and its palpable aroma invading our nostrils and luring us to their cozy little shop.
And should you feel lured, rest assured that they’ll satisfy your craving. Their massive brick building on Kinzie and Des Plaines may seem ominously industrial, but their little candy store is as sweet as can be. Offered in unassuming little red bags, their chocolates cover the full range of traditional varieties from chocolate-covered peanuts to nonpareils. But the true gems in my opinion are their fractured hunks of chocolate, broken shards of melt-in-your-mouth goodness that range from milk chocolate to bitter sweet. I’m not sure why these delectable fragments are shaped the way they are, but I like to imagine that their big machines occasionally shatter otherwise perfect squares of chocolate meant for bakers and retailers. The family-owned operation is thus forced to sell these slightly imperfect treasures to me for a fraction of the price. It’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
I’m certainly not alone in my love of Blommer’s wafting aroma, which is why the city was completely outraged when someone reported a complaint to the EPA in 2005 and the federal organization gave them a citation. They actually made a claim that the emissions of cocoa could be bad for you. If that’s bad then I don’t want to be good (actually I’ve never wanted to be good but that’s besides the point). To my horror the Blommer company complied and reduced their emissions. Sure Gary, Indiana can still smell like shit but let’s get that reek of fudge out of the air. I’m happy to say that I live in the area and still get my wafts of cocoa when the wind is right. The dominating aroma of the entire west side might be gone but you can still hit up their shop and bring the smell of Chicago home with you.
Location: 600 W. Kinzie St.