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Sweet Dreams are Made of This

Birmingham’s Chocolatá Raises the “Bar”

When Kathy D’Agostino decided to make a bold career change in 2016, she thought back to a job from her teen years where she felt especially happy and inspired: working at a local chocolate shop in Jacksonville, Florida. A visual artist with experience in design and merchandising, Kathy felt drawn to test her creative energy in the world of candy-making and realized that Birmingham — where she had resided since 1994 — did not have a local chocolate shop. “Even though I hadn’t worked with chocolate in a long time, I felt like it was a good fit,” she said.

The upscale chocolate boutique, aptly named Chocolatá, officially opened its doors in 2017. Kathy had experimented with pop-up shops, but then realized how much she desired a brick-and-mortar location. So, with her natural eye for art and design, she found an unlikely spot in the heart of downtown — a “sad little space with boarded-up windows” – and gave it the necessary love and attention to transform it into a candy-making paradise. “I love taking something and making it more beautiful,” she beamed.

She admitted that she was unsure whether those same skills she’d gained as a 15-year-old girl would come back to her as an adult – but fortunately, she said, “the art of making chocolate is much like riding a bike.” 

“At the shop in Jacksonville, they taught me about tempering chocolate, making ganache, using molds and making shells,” she explained. “We did all the tempering by hand there. No machines, so I got skilled in the art of tempering chocolate. Of course, the world of chocolate has changed quite a bit. Now there is single-origin chocolate and bean-to-bar chocolate, and they, in my opinion, are better than what was available back then. It’s definitely evolved.” 

It’s true; walk into Chocolatá and you will see this evolution firsthand. With a modest staff of just Kathy and five part-time employees, both newly developed recipes and fan favorites – using nuts, fruits, sea salts and other delights – appear on the shop’s shelves, sure to please chocolate lovers of all ages and tastes. Kathy values her distributors who provide her with quality ingredients, as well as many local purveyors. A new treat known as the Lunar Landing, for example, is a textured bar crafted from white chocolate and accented with Bronnie’s Brittle of Birmingham. But if you’re shy about which sweet to select, you can always go with the Woodlands bar, which Kathy named their most popular – it’s a heavenly fusion of dark and milk chocolates blended in-house, plus pecans roasted with brown sugar and cayenne pepper. The bar is finished with a kiss of smoked sea salt. 

And speaking of “heavenly,” the branding of Chocolatá  pays homage to the celestial world. Kathy loves astrology (she’s a Pisces, for those who are wondering), and when she asked a good friend who works in graphic design to assist with branding for the shop, one concept “outshone” all others. “I wanted to include the symbol of the moon somehow,” Kathy said, and she came up with this. She really knows me.”

  • Kathy D'Agostino