Metro-East News

Bake shop opens in Breese; downtown Belleville retailer wants to downsize

Covered in Chocolate Bistro and Catering moves to Breese

Covered in Chocolate Bistro and Catering recently moved from Carlyle to 541 N. 3rd St. in Breese. Owner Jamie Kohrmann runs daily operations at the bistro, while her sister, Hollie Sensel, does all the specialty cakes and decorating.
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Covered in Chocolate Bistro and Catering recently moved from Carlyle to 541 N. 3rd St. in Breese. Owner Jamie Kohrmann runs daily operations at the bistro, while her sister, Hollie Sensel, does all the specialty cakes and decorating.

It’s easy to forget you’re in a rural part of Southern Illinois when you pull up to Covered in Chocolate Bistro and Catering in Breese.

An industrial light display greets you at the door and you’ll notice a cozy set of yellow velvet chairs in the window where you can picture yourself having coffee and cake with friends.

Inside, a chalkboard menu is the back drop for bakery cases that look more like jewelery cases filled with glittery baked goods. (Although, the bakery’s most popular item, New Jersey-style cheesecake, is not baked.)

Cupcakes, donuts, pies and cakes sparkle as the sun fills up the room.

Owner Jamie Kohrmann recently opened the chic bakery at 541 N. 3rd St. She and her sister, Hollie Sensel, operated out of Carlyle before the business moved to Breese. Sensel does all of the specialty cakes and decorating while Kohrmann runs daily operations at the bistro.

Kohrmann renovated the space with help from her husband, Kurt. The couple rolled up their sleeves to transform the old storefront into a modern space for lunch, community gatherings, business meetings and bridal and baby showers.

In just a few weeks, it’s become a go-to destination for lunch and dessert.

“We’re always striving to be different from everybody else,” Kohrmann said during a recent lunch rush at the bistro. “That’s why when you come to our bakery you’re not going to find the usual turnover or cream puff. You’re going to find more gourmet and trendy desserts.”

Almost everything is covered in chocolate, including bacon. Kohrmann said the bistro is always trying something new, which is why they will offer chocolate-covered raspberries for Valentine’s Day.

“It really all began with chocolate-covered strawberries,” Kohrmann said.

The shop makes chocolate-covered strawberries year round, but on Valentine’s Day they expect to sell anywhere between 8,000 and 9,000 this year.

Kohrmann’s treats are in popular demand around Breese where she also caters to a lunch crowd. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, the shop was filled with customers ordering soup and sandwiches from the bistro.

Operating a food truck could be the next step for the company, but Kohrmann said she wants to settle into Breese before doing that. An outdoor space for a small community gathering is coming soon.

Want to go? The bistro is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. The bake shop is closed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

The Edge has VR rides and go-karts now, but you’ll have to wait until March

The indoor racetrack at The Edge in Belleville is shaping up, but customers can’t get behind the wheel just yet.

Go-karts and virtual reality rides — also known as VR — for the 35,000-square-foot expansion project arrived last week, putting owner Keith Schell one step closer to welcoming the public.

Schell expects the expansion to open by the first week of March. He had plans to open last month, but construction is taking longer than expected.

“It’s a real game-changer for us,” Schell said during a November interview. “To have so many first-class attractions under one roof is rare in the country, let alone a small market like Belleville.”

Besides indoor electric go-karts, the addition will include bumper cars, VR experiences, a six-lane bowling alley, a banquet facility with party rooms and an adult-friendly arcade with a bar, dart boards, pinball machines and Golden Tee and Big Buck Hunter video games.

Originally, Schell had hoped to complete the $3.6 million addition last summer.

When the 35,000-square-foot addition is completed, The Edge will total 80,000 square feet.

The Edge started in 1998 with a 26,000-square-foot laser tag center called Laser Rock on South Belt West.

Downtown Belleville’s biggest retailer wants to sell part of its building for $450,000

Five years after making a deal with the city to improve the property, the largest retailer in downtown Belleville wants to sell a portion of its storefront.

Ben’s, a locally-owned store on East Main Street, recently put two parts of the store, 116 and 120 E. Main St., on the market for $450,000.

Real estate firm, Barber Murphy Group, will handle the sale.

The store, which carries crafts, floral, gift items, toys, home decor and clothing, decided to have a liquidation sale to prepare for the change.

Ben’s will not lose departments within the store as a result of the sale, according to store manager Beth Wamble.

In a statement, the 41-year-old store said selling a portion of the property was “in the best interest of Ben’s as well as the future of the downtown community.”

“We bought this property with the intention to do this development ourselves,” the company wrote, “but have decided that our time is better spent doing what we know best and leaving this project for someone with more experience in downtown development.”

Back in 2013, the city approved a development deal to help Ben’s improve the property.

Ben’s owner John Conkright’s responsibilities included investing $450,000 in renovating the property; making at least $300,000 in new sales subject to sales tax; retaining five jobs and creating one new job in the first year; and staying at the site for 10 years.

The city would allow an estimated $15,000 in sales tax abatement for the remodeling; rebate 50 percent of incremental property tax directly related to the improvements; and reimburse 20 percent of the cost of facade improvements for three facades.

Ben’s remains in compliance with all provisions of the development agreement with the city, Conkright’s daughter Wamble said.

“The building that we have listed has an excellent loft development potential,” the company stated. “And we are hoping that a developer with the expertise in this kind of development will agree and develop the property.”

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Reporter Mike Koziatek contributed to this report.