Chef William Poole and his partner Loren Penton moved to Covington last November, with plans to purchase an existing company. The deal fell through, but they decided to stay. And hopefully by next fall, Poole will open his own chocolate shop, Chocolatier Fortvna.
“The Ohio Valley is rich in history, culture and food—it’s a very well-kept secret,” Poole says. “Amazing things are happening on both sides of the river, and I want to be part of it.”
Before they moved to the Tri-State, Poole owned a chocolate shop in Denver for about 10 years. When his lease was up in 2010, Poole and Penton moved to New Orleans, where they purchased an old hotel that had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. They restored it back to its 1860s splendor, then sold it in October 2012. They then moved to Oregon, which is where Poole thought he would open another chocolate shop, but the food scene was different than in Denver and New Orleans, and things didn’t work out.
“The opportunity in Covington arose, and when I initially came here, I fell in love with the area,” Poole says. “I feel like I fit in here, and I’m at the right place at the right time—look at the redevelopment in Over-the-Rhine, the Newport Levee, increased river commerce and plans for the streetcar. It’s very exciting.”
Poole and Penton purchased 11 E. Fifth St., the former Bottoms Up bar, as Red Mare Holdings. The building is considered a historic landmark, and Poole plans to restore it to its 1905 splendor. The storefront is currently bricked over, and the interior will be completely gutted in order to create the vision Poole has for his shop.
Fortvna’s interior will match the age of the building, and the storefront will be reminiscent of a turn-of-the-century candy shop. The fixtures will be new, but Poole plans to reuse two large gas chandeliers from his restored house on Scott Boulevard. The other fixtures will be steampunk and industrial, but still old-school, Poole says.
The building is three stories, with the 1,000-square-foot storefront on the first floor and two 1900s apartments on the second and third floors. Fortvna’s renovation will take about eight months, which will be underway as soon as a leak in the roof is repaired and mold is removed.
“I want to help solidify the sense of community here in Covington with my shop,” he says. “I want to help bring back what once was a very commerce-driven town, and is now becoming that again with the people from all over who are selling their craft, talent and art for everyone.”
The shop’s chocolate selection will be a mixture of both in-house made and imported items because Poole believes that if he can’t make a sweet better than someone else can, why not bring it to his shop and support another business. Poole plans to have chocolate bars with inclusions, rare origin chocolates and truffles. He also wants to introduce couture items in the spring and fall to keep customers interested.
“I won’t be following trends, but creating them,” Poole says. “I feel that I’m very innovative, and I tend to be ahead of other confectioners. I don’t believe in competition because I think everyone needs to do their own thing and encourage customers to try other people’s chocolates.”
By Caitlin Koenig
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