As customers file into Dude, Sweet Chocolate’s bright downtown shop on a balmy afternoon, chef-owner-chocolate-mastermind Katherine Clapner doesn’t miss a beat. She shows someone to a shelf of inventive dark chocolate favorites, the likes of which she’s known for in Dallas, while fielding questions from this food editor about the state of her sweets empire.
Yes, she shuttered both her Lower Greenville and Plano shops early last year. Yes, the proliferation of sweet shops in the area didn’t exactly help. (When Dude, Sweet opened on Greenville Avenue in 2013, places like Joy Macarons and Milk Cream wouldn’t land on the same street until 2016. The neighborhood started to feel a bit oversaturated.) And yes, the original Bishop Arts store still remains just as it has for over a decade. But Clapner says Dude, Sweet is by no means pumping the brakes.
“It’s about doing a couple of [locations] really well,” she says, rather than expanding all over the city. Enter her downtown pop-up. Here on Main Street situated among high-end designer stores and Tim Headington establishments (the Joule Hotel, CBD Provisions, Forty Five Ten, and the very space Dude, Sweet occupies), Clapner wants be a presence for the power-suited set, nine-to-fivers, and sightseeing tourists alike.
Dude, Sweet on Main Street popped up at the end of November last year, and its temporary presence will continue through March. Clapner hopes to remain through the summer, and possibly even longer. “I hope Dude, Sweet can reach a spot where Headington and I do it together.” If she had her way, she’d stick around and bring to downtown the soft serve ice cream you can find at her Bishop Arts shop.
“I like what Headington’s doing. [Pivoting toward broader appeal via swankier digs] could be seen as a bad thing, but as a business owner with a specific market, it’s very advantageous.” It’s the first time in the decade since founding Dude, Sweet that Clapner’s been able to take a moment to evaluate what her chocolatey future holds. The Bishop Arts space is likely getting a refresh because of the downtown pop-up shop.
For anyone who raises an eyebrow at the changes or thinks a rebrand is in the works, Clapner quips, “I’m tidier, that’s about it.” She’s not compromising the flavor or standards of what she creates. “The packaging won’t change—my aesthetic, my sensibilities about chocolate will not change. Even if I do milk or white chocolate, we’re very specific. We have to do it our way. It has to be done right.” Take her newer creation: a muted green bar of matcha topped with thin wisps of wafer bits and made with sweet—not cloying—cream from a woman-run dairy co-op in Ecuador. It’s Clapner’s nod to Japanese Kit-Kat of the same flavor but entirely her own take.
Before Dude, Sweet’s maybe-eventual exit, comes Valentine’s Day. Clapner’s planning a chocolate tasting paired with bubbles or bourbon in hour-long sessions. (More on this next month when the official season of romantic date planning begins.)
As for what’s down the pike, Clapner hints at some unannounced projects in the works for 2020. Being the ardent cyclist that she is, she’s been testing the as of yet unnamed product. Stay tuned for more details as we have them.