A new kid on the block (In some ways literally a new kid as the person behind the confections being sold is 23-year old Shaineal Shah) opened up in SoHo in the past two weeks - Xocolatti. Despite his young age, the chocolates show a definite sophistication belying the maker's age, drawing on several cultures, including Indian.
The store is located on Prince St, west of Thompson Street, making it literally right around the corner from Kee's and just a few short blocks from Marie Belle and Vosges and another reason to make SoHo a part of any NYC chocolate walking tour.
While the confections themselves offer strong competition for the more established players in the 'hood, one thing that makes Xocolatti stand out is the design of the store, which measures only 150 square feet.
One of the challenges in any shop is storage and at Xocolatti they have turned necessity into virtue by incorporating the boxes waiting to be filled with chocolates into the fixtures and furnishings of the shop. The boxes literally line the walls.
The shelving units create a grid and the boxes fit within this grid creating an additional complex geometry. You can get a hint of the geometry looking in from the outside, but unless you're paying very close attention, it's not immediately obvious what the elements of the design are.
Shelf units (some of which contain backlighted signs, see the photo below) extend from the grid breaking the plane - offering a way to display the confections on sale. These shelves are highlighted by pin spots from the ceiling, causing the pieces to jump out at you, highlighting the fact that many of the pieces are decorated with luster dust.
You can see that different box sizes are used in different areas of the grid to create patterns within the grid. One next obvious step is to vary the color of the lids of the boxes seasonally to add variety to the presentation. Plus - you always know what your inventory of boxes is!
I've been to many countries and been to lots of stores and seen hundreds of different methods of presenting and merchandising chocolate. While I like the traditional elements of a store like A l'Etoile d'Or in Paris and the masculine austerity of La Maison du Chocolat - this little jewel box of a store in SoHo is one of the most innovative - and attractive - stores I have ever been in.
However, it's also true that you can't eat the boxes, so when you visit, look for Indian-inspired treats such as chikki slates - a very tasty take on chocolate-covered toffee. The saffron nut chikki features a hint of cardamom that adds a bright floral/vegetal note - coupled with a pleasant sticky/chewy texture and a nut combination that consists of almond, pistachio, and cashew - that distinguishes these from other toffees. In a very good way.
A solid debut from a young new competitor who's bringing in influences from outside the chocolate world in exciting ways to mix things up.