CODY, WYO. — Savvy Wyoming residents who travel frequently between Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks know to buy an annual pass, allowing for unlimited visits through both parks. And it’s unlikely anyone is using an annual parks pass more this summer than Tim Kellogg.
Better known as the Meeteetse Chocolatier, Kellogg has made a name over the past decade for creating rich, European-style chocolate truffles and other confections, which he sells online and from a storefront in Meeteetse, about 90 minutes from the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park.
In late June, Kellogg opened a small retail outlet in downtown Jackson, just south of Grand Teton National Park. For the past month, Kellogg’s weekly commute has taken him through Yellowstone and Grand Teton, as he now splits his time between Meeteetse and Jackson.
But Kellogg had already been regularly traveling to Jackson to pick up ingredients, and drop off finished products for fundraisers for the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Jackson Hole Historical Society Museum, the Jackson Hole Wine Auction and others.
“I source a lot of my ingredients from the farmers market here, and the company that imports the raw chocolate I use delivers to Jackson. So I have to be here to meet their truck,” Kellogg said by telephone last week from Jackson.
Spurred on by encouragement from customers in the Tetons, Kellogg said he had been looking to open a store in Jackson for a while, but couldn’t find an affordable location. The answer eventually came in a newly renovated space on Broadway, about two blocks off the Town Square.
The tiny spot is one of six retail outlets subdivided from what was previously a single space, Kellogg said.
The good news—at least for customers in Meeteetse and Cody who have feared a permanent defection by Kellogg to the tonier environs of Jackson Hole—is that the affordable but small space on Broadway lacks a kitchen. So for the near future at least, Kellogg will continue making every truffle, brownie and other treat by hand—by himself, in his Meeteetse kitchen.
Kellogg said he will remain on a track of slow growth, expanding only to the point that he can still make each item himself. He has managed to stock the Jackson store, which so far is only open on weekends, by making fewer varieties of truffles in each batch, but in greater quantities.
“That way, we can rotate flavors throughout the seasons, offering something new and different in both stores,” he said.
“So far, everyone that has come in has liked the chocolate and the new space,” Kellogg said.
Ruth Ann Petroff, who owns a coffee roasting business in Jackson, said Kellogg’s shop “is a great addition to our downtown.”
“Not only are his chocolates delicious, but Tim is such a great addition to our community as well,” Petroff said. “He has worked to support the historical society, music festival and many other causes.”
Kellogg said he will continue supporting local charities in both towns, and looks forward to being in Meeteetse for the annual Labor Day festivities, the town’s biggest celebration of the year.
There probably aren’t two more different towns in the state than Meeteetse and Jackson, Kellogg said. But high-end chocolates sell well in both places because they are an affordable luxury.
“People might not always splurge on a $50 sweatshirt, but they will spend $5 for a couple of nice pieces of chocolate,” he said.
Kellogg had worked for years as a wrangler at a Meeteetse ranch, and competed in rodeos around the region. But the recent sale of the ranch where he worked meant his job was phased out, offering “exactly the kind of final push I needed to get me to open the second store.”
It should come as no surprise that tourists and well-heeled residents in Jackson are increasingly looking for organic foods, including organic cacao—a raw chocolate ingredient—that comes from “single-origin” sources like specific plantations in Venezuela and Madagascar.
But as the cost of cacao has risen, Kellogg’s bottom line has shrunk a bit, as he tries to hold the line on prices for his customers. Giant candy manufacturers have largely avoided that problem by substituting more fillers for cacao, an increasingly costly commodity harvested by producers only twice each year.
Kellogg’s customers are usually interested in more nuanced chocolates that reflect the regional characteristics of where the cacao is grown, much like the wine industry. But there’s also a limit to what they’re willing to pay.
So Kellogg continues to experiment with local ingredients like sage, huckleberry and prickly pear cactus, drawing on new techniques he learns each year in his travels to Paris and London, where he trains with top chefs and chocolatiers.
“I just received an order of beans from Ecuador that I’m going to roast myself,” he said. “That could be fun, or turn out to be a real challenge.”
If things go well in Jackson over the next year or two, Kellogg may look for a larger retail store, or an off-site kitchen. But he still plans to do all the baking himself.
“I’m going for quality, not quantity,” he said.
Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].