All News & Blogs
The Frenchman's Corner's flagship shop in Culpeper has a new location and a new look.
Jeffrey Mitchell, who ran The Frenchman's Cellar as a separate entity within
ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
View More Images from this story
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 9/8/2012
Being the No. 1 independent retailer of Neuhaus chocolates has its perks.
Just ask Marc Ast, owner of The Frenchman's Corner stores in Culpeper, Charlottesville and Fredericksburg.
When he and his wife, Meg, went to New York City for the grand opening of the Belgian chocolate company's new flagship store at 500 Madison Ave., he learned that the display cases for its old shop on Broadway had been stored in a warehouse.
Ast asked if he could have them, and his request was granted. Now the cases, which display the handmade, gourmet chocolates like jewels, are among the first things you see at his new location at 129 E. Davis St.
"We're the first ever independent store to have that privilege," he said. "We're still, by far, the largest independent, and the only one in the world listed on their website. Everyone else is on their own."
Ast held a grand opening for his new shop on Wednesday. It's in what had been office space and a hallway in the same building as his former shop.
That location is now the home of The Culpeper Cheese Company, formerly The Frenchman's Cellar. Owner Jeffrey Mitchell had run it as a separate business in the back of The Frenchman's Corner.
He's begun expanding into the whole space with an extensive selection of cheeses, wine, beer and gourmet items. The renovation is expected to be finished next month, and will include a kitchen for cooking classes.
The two businesses decided on the change when their lease was up.
"It was time for us to have our own space and our own look rather than being roommates," said Jennifer Beach, who manages the Frenchman's Corner in Culpeper.
That look begins with those Neuhaus display cases, which occupy the front of the shop. The first piece customers see is a four-sided tower with adjustable drawers called a "totem." The drawers can be pulled out of any side to display boxes of chocolates tied with the company's signature chocolate brown ribbon.
Ast also got two Neuhaus display cases that are inset in the wall to showcase more boxes, and two refrigerated cases that keep the company's chocolate confections at the perfect temperature and level of humidity.