“This is Willy Wonka for 2020.”
Jonathan Grahm is standing in the middle of his new Compartés chocolate shop in Hancock Park on a recent morning, beaming. He sweeps his hands in front of him, gesturing to a chocolate factory behind a 60-foot floor-to-ceiling glass wall.
Seven factory workers all dressed in black are sitting at kettles full of melting chocolate, adding dried, dehydrated and caramelized fruit, nuts and Fruity Pebbles to the mix. They ladle the chocolate into bar molds, give them a tap to set the mixture, then slide them into a custom-built $100,000 Italian fridge (Grahm calls it the Lamborghini of refrigerators) programmed to a precise 40 degrees to chill before packaging.
At a table nearby, a woman is dropping pieces of crystallized ginger and whole gingersnap cookies onto bars waiting to be set. Others are sliding finished bars into shiny gold wrappers.
“Sometimes I get apple pie from Apple Pan and chop it up and put it into the bars,” Grahm, 35, said. “The organic raspberries and rose water are from a Persian market in Westwood. The doughnuts in the doughnut bar are from Primo’s.”
Grahm started working at the Los Angeles company when he was just 15 and bought Compartés from his parents when he was 25 (it was an amicable sale). He took over as chocolate maker when he was 21 and has since opened 10 Compartés stores around the world, including ones in Brentwood and Century City.
This 6,000-square-foot La Brea Avenue space is his latest, and it’s where he plans to produce enough chocolate to supply the more than 1,000 global retailers that carry the brand, which include Bristol Farms, Paper Source and Alfred Coffee.
The shop and factory, which are now open, will be available for private tours, special events and tastings.
Opposite the factory is a Compartés retail store that will sell truffles and more than 50 kinds of chocolate bars, all wrapped in the brand’s signature eye-catching packaging. Designed by Grahm, the packages often feature chevron stripes, unicorns, palm trees and cutouts from personal photographs. The packaging was recently on display at the Smithsonian for a six-month exhibit, he said.
Something else he’s really proud of: a new line of vegan, paleo, organic bars that feature such ingredients as turmeric, pitaya and reishi mushroom. He created the line for customers with allergies and dietary restrictions.
Grahm designed the space himself, handpicking each slab of blue-veined marble for the walls and counters. Antique mirrors line the back of the factory and there’s a plush black leather couch in the shop that Grahm plucked from his home office. The light fixtures, which he had custom-made, look like mini moons floating above the chocolates.
Eventually, Grahm said he’d like to lead chocolate-making classes in the factory.
“Everyone says your business must be online, which is true,” he said, “but I wanted to make a destination that people would get in their cars and come to.”
516 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, compartes.com