By Tania Moffat
The sign on Provencher Boulevard reads “Chocolatier Constance Popp.” It’s simple and elegant just like the white brick exterior, but as you step through the front door you are transported into a chocolate fantasy world.
A crisp white interior and dark wood floors provide the background for rich chocolate temptations. Stunning three-dimensional chocolate creations peek from behind packaged delicacies in mouth-watering flavours. If you have never been to Constance Popp’s shop, you should go – and if you don’t already love chocolate, you will.
Believe it or not, Constance began her affair with chocolate seven years ago as a second career. When asked what made her make the change from an environmental manager for Palliser Furniture, she says she can’t even explain it. “Chocolate was not even remotely on my radar. I guess a lot of things led me in that direction, but I’m not sure what pushed it over the edge, to make chocolate the choice.”
She recalls writing and directing a play at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival called Shout. At the end of the play, someone asks the main character what she is going to do next and she replies, ‘I don’t know, maybe I’ll open a chocolate shop.’
“I think it was kind of like that for me, just an idea that took shape,” she says.
“My kitchen was always the centre of my world. I cooked all the time; I think my obsession started before I even realized it. If it wasn’t chocolate it would have been cheese, bread or maybe wine.”
She learned that her hometown of Montreal was the epicentre for the chocolate industry in Canada, and her determination, persistence and talent helped her meet the requirements to enter the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy near Montreal where she trained.
A true artisan, Constance, along with her small team, create mouth-watering delicacies that reflect their use of whole ingredients.
“We buy premium grade chocolate, including single origin and single plantation chocolate,” explains Constance. “We use all natural, whole ingredients in everything we make. I don’t think that is special; that’s just the way it is. We use real food and we make it all here. We make our own gels, marshmallows and caramels. We grind whole foods like mint or lemons to make our own flavourings.”
While you can find some exotic flavour pairings, Constance doesn’t consider her chocolates elitist. “I consider us accessible, comfort chocolate. We basically go with what people want. We want to make super cool chocolate that just happens to be made in Saint Boniface, Winnipeg, and I want people in other centres of the world to know we exist and seek us out.
“(But) we are making chocolates with Manitoba ingredients that are representative of Canada.”
Teaming up with various organizations across the city, her chocolates can be found in some interesting locales. She is currently working with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, designing a three-dimensional rendition of the building that will be available in its gift shop as well as her location.
The Manitoba legislative building will offer three-dimensional Golden Boys and another exclusive item designed specifically for its gift shop by Constance; and she has created a chocolate bar for the Winnipeg Art Gallery to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
Never wanting to become stale, she is constantly taking part in new projects and adding new flavours to add to the 20 to 30 core chocolates.
A new signature chocolate mold has been created to further build the brand and create tons of new flavours. Spoiler alert: look out for an orange and coffee-flavoured breakfast bar.
Of all the places to open up a chocolate shop – why Winnipeg? “Winnipeg is big enough to attract interesting things to it but small enough to still give you access to them,” says Constance. How true.