Named after owner Chelle Bravo's two daughters, Elena Coco and Marisol Hazel, Coco and Hazel is a low-key dreamy pastel paradise serving Instagram-worthy milkshakes. The frothy, elaborate beverages topped with treats like palm-sized lollipops and mounds of cotton candy always seem to be the stars of the show.
When I arrive on my first visit, it's 9 a.m. and a cashier is painting melted chocolate along the rim of a tall beer mug. On a Saturday afternoon, the place is full of families and the top of the shake plunked down in front of me is at eye level.
A full-time real estate agent who grew up in Richmond, Bravo has always wanted to open a dessert shop.
"I started out working at restaurants for my most of my young adult life," she explains, noting her pastry work at Stella's Grocery, including those rainbow sprinkle cookies we all love, Perly's, Kitchen 64 and the Continental Westhampton.
Bravo got the keys to the space, a former hair salon, Feb. 1 and turned around a remodel for an April 19 opening. Other than getting rid of the salon sinks, there was no major demolition necessary.
Customers order at the counter, then wait for their names to be called at adjacent tables. Even when the shop is full, milkshakes come out in less than 10 minutes.
The menu, created by Bravo, features half a dozen specialty shakes ($13-14) as well as sundaes, toddler cones, build-your-own ice cream sandwiches and a churro ice cream sandwich. The ice cream comes from Homestead Creamery, the beloved dairy producer about 15 miles outside of Roanoke. Bravo's brother-in-law, whom she trained, bakes fresh batches of the cakes and cookies that adorn the specialty shakes, along with other treats such as cinnamon rolls and breakfast biscuits. The full coffee bar is stocked with Cafe Brujula, from Oaxaca, Mexico, where Bravo's husband is from.
You could get a regular strawberry milkshake to go, or a simple mint chip cone, but you'd miss out on the true, sweet joy of having a dessert placed in front of you that is even more overwhelming than it appears in photos. And you'll want photos. During my visits, most families snap pictures before letting their children dig in.
"If that's a creative way for you express yourself, then I'm all about it," Bravo says.
The Candy Shop ($13) is probably the most over-the-top, with a mound of cotton candy plopped right on the shake, with various rock candies and swirling rainbow lollipops sticking out for good measure. The MHB ($14), another nod to little Marisol and her love of peanut butter, is over-the-top in other ways: The rim of the glass, which has been dressed in a caramel drizzle, is coated with crushed peanut M&M's. A show-stopping slice of peanut butter pie, featuring chunky peanut butter cream inside a crushed cocoa cookie crust with a hard chocolate ganache, sits regally atop the chocolate shake. The ice cream beverage, while blended to perfection, is delightful but almost an afterthought to this pie.
According to Bravo, the shop's first summer has exceeded her expectations.
"It is incredible. We have been so fortunate. … And it's fun," Bravo beams. She credits neighboring businesses in the shopping center that have supported her along the way. "They've been really kind and really accepting."
She's also found that she is in the business of celebrating milestones.
"We've had people that get promotions at work that want to celebrate," she says. "It's just been really neat because then we get to celebrate with them. And they tell you why they're here."
She's also seen graduation festivities, for preschoolers on up through college students, along with countless birthdays.
And she has what everybody wants for any celebration: cake and ice cream.
Coco and Hazel
411 N. Ridge Road
Mondays – Thursdays 7:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Fridays 7:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturdays 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sundays 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.