ASHEVILLE – This fall the French Broad Chocolate Lounge will move from its iconic Lexington Avenue location. When it moves to the Legal Building next to the Asheville Art Museum, Asheville will gain a new space for outdoor dining as well as a new look at a historic building.
Jael Rattigan, who owns the Chocolate Lounge and chocolate factory on the South Slope with her husband, Dan Rattigan, said that the design phase of the new lounge has taken longer than expected.
“We’ve finally gotten that all squared away, and we got our permits a few weeks ago,” said Jael Rattigan. “But the work that has begun is of the non-exciting plumbing and electrical variety. We’re excited to see more tangible progress soon.”
The Legal Building was designed in the early part of the 20th century by Richard Sharp Smith, who also designed Asheville’s Masonic Temple and YMI Building. The historic 10 Pack Square space has revealed a few secrets as it’s undergone its current renovation.
“We discovered, under ugly bank carpeting, the original tile,” said Rattigan. “It’s the old, square tile with some mosaic detail work, so we’re going to preserve that.” There are some “bald patches” in the tile, which the Rattigans will cover in “creative ways,” she said. “But it’s worth it to preserve that little bit of history.”
On Tuesday, construction workers were adding a door to the side of the building, one that would allow access to a newly approved outdoor patio, designed around existing benches and trees fronting the museum.
“We’re terribly excited to have that,” said Rattigan. “It’s a game-changer for us.”
Rattigan said that, even when cold weather makes the patio less comfortable, the new lounge will have prime people-watching space. “We’ve designed a bar to go across the entire front window, so you’re essentially on the park, even when you’re inside,” she said. “It’s going to be such a cool location.”
The Rattigans are also working on perfecting their recipe for a new line of ice cream, which will be available in the dining room, and also in an adjacent retail boutique, which will have its own entrance. That space will have truffles, take-out desserts and something called a chocolate bar library.
The library will hold about 150 different craft chocolate bars, all bean-to-bar and available for tasting. The “optimistic” projected opening for the new lounge is November, said Rattigan.