A new paradigm in chocolate retailing is upon us, or should I say a new cult has infiltrated our ranks?
Right before Christmas it moved into a large and long-vacant West Village space at the corner of Bleecker and West 10th. Pure Dark was a store that vended only dark chocolate, often presented as a nugget or a bark. Stylish chocolate nibs figured in, in delicious caramelized form. The clerks–a half dozen at peak times–wore identical gray baseball caps that said Pure Dark and brown thermal underwear with long sleeves. The uniforms were totally Willie Wonka. The atmosphere of the space was chill and dark and calming. There were a number of counters vending or displaying various chocolate products, with attendants at the ready to explain the whole concept.
It feels like a cult, I thought, and this is the cult’s temple. Or maybe it feels like a drug den where chocolate has been substituted for crack. Center of attention is a counter with a glass case wherein three or four types of chocolate barks (priced at $2.75 per ounce) are displayed. The one I like best has pecans and crystallized ginger on top. The mouth-feel is smooth and creamy, indicating extensive conching–the process by which chocolate is slowly stirred for hours in a small cement mixer called a conch.
I buy three ounces of the bark, and the attendant reverently wraps it in brown paper emblazoned with the symbol of a brown cocoa bean. Fake stylized plants bearing this bean caricature are scattered around the cavenous store, like the set of Little Shop of Horrors.
Gradually, I was forced by my insane longing for chocolate to join the cult. That’s me you see leaning on the mailbox at Charles and Bleecker, a corona of melted chocolate smeared around my face, my eyes empty and dead. Please help me…
Pure Dark, 350 Bleecker Street, 917-284-1927
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 9, 2009