GRAMERCY — The concept of healthy chocolate has always seemed a pipe dream. Chocoholics had to choose between rich flavors and low calories — the two seemed be mutually exclusive.
But Vanessa Barg, founder of Gnosis Chocolate, claims to have achieved the impossible with her homemade, raw, organic, refined sugar-free and dairy free chocolate.
And high customer demand has prompted her to give her wholesale business a retail outlet with the first Gnosis pop-up shop.
Last Thursday, Gnosis took over a portion of the counter space inside Organique, an organic take-out restaurant on East 23rd Street between Park and Lexington avenues. Barg, 26, said the response so far has been “just phenomenal.”
The hits to the Gnosis website doubled the day the shop opened, Barg said. One customer drove an hour to visit the space. Another wrote on Barg’s Facebook wall that her shop made New York City complete.
“Everything about this company has come from customer demand,” said Barg, who has adopted the superhero-like moniker “Chocolate Girl.”
Barg started her company three years ago. At the time, she was working as an holistic health counselor, certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners to guide people in choosing better foods.
Barg started making healthy chocolate to help her clients substitute good treats for bad, and her business grew from there.
Now, the Astoria resident makes her chocolate at a facility in Long Island City. She uses only raw ingredients and low-glycemic sweeteners instead of refined sugars. She makes sure not to heat her chocolate above 118 degrees so that it will retain more of its natural antioxidants.
And Barg infuses the chocolate with super foods like pomegranates, acai and goji berries, as well as medicinal herbs like ginseng and ginkgo biloba.
“This is the most nutritious chocolate in the world. It doesn’t taste like you’re missing out on anything,” Barg said. “You can still indulge in the things that you love and not feel guilty about it.”
Barg, who learned a love of food from her Italian mother and an adolescent addiction to cooking shows, now sells her chocolate online and at more than 200 stores across the country.
She has also brought on a classically trained chocolatier, Lauren Gockley, a.k.a. "Ms. Truffle," who left a job in the kitchen at Per Se to work for Gnosis.
“[The business] just grew and grew,” Barg said. “And that’s exactly how the store came about as well.”
Over the years, Barg has received multiple inquiries from customers asking about a Gnosis shop. Those repeated requests prompted her to open a retail location — albeit a temporary one.
“I believe in doing things step by step,” she said. “And when you do things, do them well.”
Her goal now is to remain open through the holidays, Barg said.
She has stocked the pop-up shop with her classic chocolate bars, as well as a few items exclusive to the East 23rd Street store, including an aphrodisiac hot chocolate elixir and truffles that Barg calls “little gems of divine deliciousness.”
If demand holds strong, Barg said she will consider opening a permanent location.
The Gnosis Shoppe is located at 110 East 23rd Street between Park and Lexington avenues.