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Patio makeover brings palm trees and outdoor tunes to downtown South Bend

Believe it or not, real palm trees will soon decorate downtown South Bend.

South Bend Chocolate Cafe, 122 S. Michigan St.,  is renovating its outdoor patio, and the new look includes six 20-foot tropical trees direct from Florida.

“We’ve always had the patio, but we’ve never showcased it,” said South Bend Chocolate Company district manager Kristina Tressler. “It’s our biggest asset down here. Nobody else has a patio. We’re the only ones, so that’s why we decided to blow it up.”

Tressler said the trees will be uprooted and placed in storage during the colder months. Purchasing the trees accounted for a large portion of the $25,000 to $30,000 expected to be spent on the makeover.

Two outdoor couches, a tiki bar, two “fire tables” and a corner stage are already in use.

And that rich, sweet smell?

Those are cocoa nibs from Blommer Chocolate Company, now re-purposed as ground cover in the mulch beds surrounding the cafe.  

“We put it out as mulch and it really smells like chocolate, it’s crazy,” Tressler said. “It gets on the patio and chocolate smears everywhere, but we don’t mind.”

The outdoor area will have an increased 100-person standing room capacity, in addition to comfortable seating for 30.

Tressler said the cafe intends to have live music and drink service on the patio Thursday through Sunday evenings each week during the summer. A public grand opening is planned 5 p.m. to midnight on Friday, June 5. 

Wine varieties from Round Barn Winery and Evil Czech Brewery’s beer, pumped through the cafe’s portable draft system, will be served at the opening event. Don Savoie, local troubadour and adjunct professor of music at the University of Notre Dame, will strum the first official summer song.   

“I think it’s going to bring an excitement and atmosphere, which is why I wanted to put it out here,” Tressler said. “It’s going to bring a younger crowd into here— kind of a cool and calm vibe with the soft lighting, soft music and seating.”

And palm trees.

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