Several years back, Nutella was the rage on college campuses. The little single serving packets were replacing salt, sugar, and butter packets in college cafeterias, with administrators being forced to keep a sharp eye on students loading pockets, purses, and backpacks with dozens of those packets filled with delicious chocolate hazelnut goo.
Well, on Wednesday, May 31, 2017, Nutella is opening its first freestanding cafe in the United States at 189 North Michigan Avenue, between Wacker and Randolph. This stretch of Michigan Avenue has for decades been the dark and gloomy patch, with an oddball assortment of religious bookstores, a 7/11, pop up team sporting attire stores, and other nondescript retail. With the opening of Millennium Park and the Chicago River Walk, this part of town is getting hot. One high-end apartment project opened last year for business, with a second one just announced, the Hard Rock Hotel has a new restaurant, Stan's Donuts is opening a store, and the London House has fancy writing on its windows advertising retail space. With this renaissance, comes Nutella. Its parent company, Ferrero, recently purchased Fannie May, a Chicago staple of chocolate, for $115 million.
Today the store was handing out samples, but the doors were locked. Peeking in the windows, I saw a white, nicely fixtures cafe with a lot more than just Nutella. In addition to all sorts of Nutella-inspired desserts and pastries, the cafe will be offering paninis, soups, and salads. The display cases were filled with food, which I assume will be eaten before next Thursday's opening as part of pre-opening ceremonies and parties for insiders. There will also be a coffee bar, gelato, and affogatos on offer.
I asked if they would let me make interior photographs, but I was told that the PR department would not be happy if they could not control my efforts, so you will have to wait. I do note that the rather plain samples served on attractive trays went quickly, with lots of passerby peeking in the windows. Nutella is going to make a fortune with this store.
And I will not be surprised once Stan's Donuts opens to see people going from the Nutella Cafe to the Stan's, with Nutella being added as topping to purchased donuts.