Chris Wilson’s main reason for opening a coffee shop and roastery is simple.
“Coffee brings people together,” he said.
That’s the purpose of Chocolattés Coffee & Roasting, the cafe Chris and his wife, Lisa, opened in 2018. The south Fort Myers spot, tucked in a strip plaza next to Point Ybel Brewing Co. on San Carlos Boulevard, specializes in roasting beans from around the world and using them to create luxurious cups of coffee.
Coffee may be the star of the show, but Chocolattés’ menu has exploded over the years to include an array of savory and sweet breakfast and lunch items.
As a child, Lisa vacationed in Southwest Florida before her parents retired to the area. When she and Chris visited, she said the only place she could find a hot cup of coffee was a gas station.
“There was a need in this area,” she said.
“We had no kids at the time and thought: Why wait until we retire to move to Florida?” Chris said.
In 2003, the couple left Milwaukee to open the first Chocolattés as a kiosk at HealthPark Medical Center in south Fort Myers, eventually expanding to four locations in the Lee Health system.
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As the business grew, they wanted to roast their own coffee beans and found space in the nearby Kelly Crossing shopping center. But the partnership with Lee Health ended, and the couple had to pivot, so they turned their roastery into a cafe.
At first, the cafe’s focus was serving premium, fresh-roast coffee and coffee drinks, with bakery-style foods such as Just Bagels from the Bronx in New York, cookies from local baker Judi Mae and house-made scones.
“One day someone asked us if we had eggs,” Lisa said. “So, we hooked up a griddle to make breakfast sandwiches, and the menu just kept expanding.”
Enter Chocolattés now-famous gluten-free crepes. While savory options are available, Lisa said banana-Nutella is the best seller, folded into a neat triangle and topped with powdered sugar and whipped cream.
Lisa’s favorite crepe is Greece Meets France. It’s filled with spinach, mushrooms and feta.
“You can hardly tell they’re gluten free,” she said. “They are so versatile, and everyone loves them.”
Toast is a morning staple at Chocolattés, and the choices range from cinnamon-raisin to avocado. The cafe also composes yogurt parfaits and bowls of steel-cut oatmeal that can be topped with fresh fruit, chia seeds, nuts, chocolate chips and more.
For lunch, the menu features a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches and flatbreads.
General manager Greg Capellan has been with the Wilsons since day one and is the force behind roasting and blending Chocolattés’ coffee beans.
“We try to create a blend for every taste profile; light, French, dark,” he said. He also makes seasonal blends.
“I can’t live without a cup of Coastal Blend daily,” Lisa said. The signature brew is a medium/dark roast. Sunshine Blend is another house favorite made with a mix of beans from Guatemala and Kenya.
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The cafe is also known for its variety of single-origin coffees, as well as unique, small-production varieties that focus on sustainability, fair trade and giving back.
“The customer is more educated now,” Greg said. “They want to know coffee is sustainable for the farmer, and they don’t mind paying a little more to know there is transparency along the supply chain.”
While delicious on their own, Chocolattés’ coffees can be mixed with rich syrups, creams and milks to create hot and cold concoctions that are pleasing to the eye and the palate. Most coffee drinks served in house come in large glass cups, so patrons can see the layers of colors and ingredients.
Besides coffee, Chocolattés serves teas, kombucha on tap, and smoothies.
In March, the Wilsons added a large warehouse space to the back, dubbing it The Backyard. With high ceilings and a roll-up garage door, it doubles as event space.
The Wilsons see it as another way of bringing people together, by creating experiences centered around community and coffee. For the holidays, The Backyard has become a winter wonderland. In January, an event is planned that mimics the board game Clue, where actors will improvise scenes of a crime, and the audience attempts to solve the mystery.
When asked about Chocolattés’ evolution, Chris said, “Through the ups and downs you can’t give up on the dream. Perseverance is the secret sauce.”
That and a good cup of coffee.
Gina Birch writes about food, wine and spirits for The News-Press and at thebirchbeat.blogspot.com. Follow her as @ginabirch on Twitter and find her on Facebook.
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Address: 16120 San Carlos Blvd., south Fort Myers
Hours: 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
More: 239-331-4443 or chocolattescoffeeco.com
Reviewed By This Is Article About At Chocolattés, coffee and community collide was posted on have 4 stars rating.