For Erika Chavez-Graziano, the business mastermind and creative entrepreneur behind Louisville’s beloved Cellar Door Chocolates, growing her company is all about elevating her brand – finding new, exciting and innovative ways to keep Cellar Door interesting and engaging to the consumer. This month, she’s launched two new products that do just that; both the Barnhart Bars and the series inspired by Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” not only keep Cellar Door fresh and relevant but also remind shoppers of Chavez-Graziano’s astounding creativity and commitment to quality and originality.
The Barnhart Bars, which are now available, feature Cellar Door’s very own bean-to-bark chocolate – chocolate that the company processes all the way from the raw bean to the packaged bar – wrapped in gorgeous reproductions of artwork by Jeaneen Barnhart. The various illustrations depict seductive and artfully captivating women that Chavez-Graziano attests were the product of inspiration she saw elsewhere.
“I commissioned [Barnhart] for a private piece, and then I was inspired by some other chocolate bars that I saw in New York – they were more Vargas-type girls,” she describes. “And I thought I love to work with local artists … so I thought, well Jeaneen – she’s known for her romantic, figurative work, so I approached her with the idea and she was like, ‘Yes. Yes.’”
Barnhart consequently developed the illustrations and then her sister, Doreen Barnhart DeHart, a local graphic designer, worked with Cellar Door to institute them as packaging. Moreover, the wrappers are engineered in such a way that when removed from the bar, they are in fact art pieces themselves ready to be framed.
“Doreen really helped me understand the packaging and how with just adding a few extra cents to your packaging you can really elevate the brand,” Chavez-Graziano explains. “She and I are in the process of redoing our packing – not overhauling the brand but just adding small elements to it and elevating it.”
This interest in packaging is actually a new frontier for Chavez-Graziano, who admits that aspect of the product was never her priority. “We’ve been known for having high-end gourmet chocolate, and I’ve always said we don’t put a lot of money into the packaging because it ends up in the trash,” she says. “But with [the Barnhart Bars], the way that I’m justifying the packing being high-end is that it’s a keepsake. So the only part going in the trash is the foil if you choose to keep the paper.”
The Barnhart Bars are currently available at all Cellar Door Chocolates locations and are on shelves indefinitely; however, a brand-new product is also available across locations but with a limited run only through Valentine’s Day: a line of chocolates inspired by Beyoncé’s 2016 album “Lemonade.”
Prior to that album’s release, which famously features a diverse collection of songs exploring the heartbreak and reflection that come with a spouse’s infidelity, Chavez-Graziano wouldn’t have called herself a Beyoncé fan. However, that changed with “Lemonade.”
“Last year when she dropped ‘Lemonade,’ I was an on-the-fence Beyoncé fan,” she recounts. “I liked her, but I didn’t love her music – I just liked it. But ‘Lemonade’ spoke to me. It was so empowering, and all of the songs on that album are about being resentful, forgiveness, expressing pain, taking accountability for not being the best person in a relationship. The album expressed the gamut of emotions you go through in a relationship through ups and downs. And Valentine’s Day is so funny because if you have a valentine, there’s this expectation that you have to woo that person on that particular day. If you don’t have a valentine, it can be hard too because you see other people around you celebrating it. It’s a funny holiday.”
It was actually this very observation of the holiday that led to the creation of the “Lemonade”-inspired chocolates. Why should Valentine’s Day chocolate all be focused on love and romance when so many are not feeling those emotions on any given February 14? “I thought, why not have some chocolates that celebrate being single, that celebrate heartbreak, that celebrate these things because if you normalize these things, then it doesn’t hurt so much,” Chavez-Graziano reasons.
Such products inspired by the album include heart suckers with now-iconic “Lemonade” lyrics such as “Boy bye.” Additionally, the company has created mini Louisville Slugger bats modeled after the one Beyoncé uses in the “Don’t Hurt Yourself” music video, complete with the words “Hot Sauce” across the logo. Interested shoppers should act quick though, as these – and the rest of the “Lemonade” line – will only be around through Valentine’s Day.
Although these two new products are unquestionably exciting, they are simply evidence of the endless innovation of Cellar Door. Other things are currently in the works as well – the Oxmoor kiosk for example will be closed May and June while it expands from 200 square feet to 600 and constructs an enclosed space that will offer wine service. However, Chavez-Graziano always has new things in the works, and that’s what has solidified Cellar Door as the enduring brand it has proven to be.
“The thing about my business and others similar to mine where you don’t provide a necessity – this is a luxury product – you have to stay relevant,” she asserts. “You have to continue to reinvent yourself because if you rest on your laurels, someone else is going to come up behind you and do what you do better. So we have to constantly think of new ideas to keep people interested in us.” VT
By Remy Sisk.
Cellar Door will be celebrating the release of the Barnhart Bars on February 9 with a launch party from 6 to 9 p.m. at the company’s downtown location at 601 S. Fourth St. Artist Jeaneen Barnhart will be on hand to sign the reproductions of her work. For more information, call 502.294.3496.