Wander into VanBuskirk Artisanal Chocolate Bar in Cottleville, and most patrons will find something they are in the mood for.
From chocolates and coffee to beer and wine to ice cream and soda, Conor VanBuskirk has created a venue that caters to each of his interests.
VanBuskirk owns three shops in Florissant and St. Charles County. After years of selling chocolate dipped strawberries and turtles to suburban masses, VanBuskirk wanted to do something more creative.
“My food interests are more exotic,” he said. “I started experimenting with lemongrass and curry and all of those things my customers are not open to, but I knew there was a market for it.”
VanBuskirk set out to open a shop that would focus on chocolate but serve enough diverse options to help out during the eight months of the year when chocolate sales are slow (post-Easter through November).
“When it came to my building concept, I knew I wanted to do ice cream,” he said. “It’s similar to a truffle: it’s cream, it’s flavors and it’s something that sells well in the summer when chocolate sales fall off.”
While you’ll find traditional choices, like chocolate-covered caramel with fleur de sel, VanBuskirk also fills chocolate shells with combinations like goat cheese and pear, yuzu and ginger and fig and port wine. Truffles sell for $2.50 each.
Ice cream flavors include eggnog, cinnamon, Guinness beer and pretzels, cherry bourbon and Vietnamese coffee.
In addition to sweets, the Chocolate Bar offers an eclectic range of artisanal items: single origin pour-over coffees, teas, local beer and wine, local cheese and cigars.
VanBuskirk said he was welcomed by the other shop owners in Cottleville when he opened in October. He chose the location on Highway N over Main Street St. Charles because he wanted to go in someplace and offer something new to the area.
“It’s not a combative environment,” he said. “It was more like, ‘Let’s make sure this guy makes it.’”
Carl McConnell, owner of Stone Soup Cottage, said there's a productive relationship between Cottleville city government and local businesses and between the business owners.
McConnell and VanBuskirk have collaborated on a few occasions, most recently with VanBuskirk creating a lemon sorbet made with McConnell's lemon curd.
"It's such a treat to have someone of Conor's skill level right across from my restaurant that researches and develops with me and we create really cool things I can serve to my clients and he can serve to his clients too," McConnell said.
VanBuskirk Artisinal Chocolate Bar is located at 3526 Highway N in Cottleville. It is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.