Thanks to her long journey from a life dedicated to the artistry of fashion design to the artistry of chocolate, for the past dozen years local residents have been the fortuitous beneficiaries of Cathy Bouchard’s shift in passion.
But it was more than simply a sweet tooth that led Bouchard to explore the wonders of chocolate. Her investigations into the healing properties of cacao to help alleviate the effects of fibromyalgia eventually led to the opening of her namesake shop in downtown Naperville, which has become a combination of chocoholic Eden, peaceful oasis and civic institution.
Can you tell us more about what inspired you to open Le Chocolat du Bouchard?
I opened in 2004 with the intent of bringing real (that is, European) chocolate to Naperville. Because of my love of all things European—especially Paris and Belgium—I designed Le Chocolat with the look and feel of a European chocolate shop, and we currently import some of our most decadent chocolates from Belgium.
During the first few weeks of being open, my incredible story of healing by cacao went national and now I have thousands of customers—not only in the Chicago area, but all around the country—who have experienced results from The Chocolat Regimen™ that I developed as a healthy, high-grade Belgian chocolate.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in starting the shop and keeping it going over the years?
Running a business is difficult at times, but when you love what you do it’s much less painful. With approximately thirty-five employees we have transitioned into a full-fledged French bistro, complete with wine plus full lunch and dinner menus. So the challenges are increasing daily, but we’ve built a great team here.
How has the business grown or changed over the years? What are you looking forward to on the horizon?
Our immediate future plans include opening a second Le Chocolat just south of our downtown location [this month], which will include a smaller retail version of the bakery, with chocolate production and the gift basket division in an adjoining building as we ramp up our wholesale sales to hotels, restaurants and banquet facilities. More of my signature products will be coming in 2017 as well, with wine/chocolate bars and chocolate pairing kits, and we are also considering future expansion not only in the Chicago area, but into other prime national locations as well.
What do you like best about living and running a business in Naperville?
Having a business in Naperville is incredible. It will certainly make me proud to someday say that our flagship store is located in Naperville, because this city is truly an amazing place. I’ve lived here for twenty-eight years and have loved every minute of it.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
When I take time away from the business, I relax by reading nonfiction—I love to learn new things every day and read more about the history of places where my husband and I travel. As I get older, I’m also thoroughly enjoying the time I get to spend with my three daughters and my grandchildren.
I also love to bake, so the Le Chocolat patisserie was a no-brainer. I have the greatest job in the world: I get to taste-test chocolate, macarons and pastries from all over the world. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
What is your “can’t-miss” recommendation for first-time visitors to Le Chocolat?
I highly recommend our signature carrot cake, even though it’s not chocolate. Our recipe is amazing and we’ve heard thousands of times that it’s the best carrot cake people have ever tasted.
What do you hope customers get out of a visit to your shop?
I love when customers walk in, glance around and comment that they feel like they’re back in Paris again.
Le Chocolat du Bouchard
127–129 South Washington Street