A local pastry chef-turned-chocolatier who has worked at ultra-luxe restaurants in D.C. and New York plans to open her first retail store this fall in Georgetown.
Ashleigh Pearson signed a lease for a 600-square-foot space at 1332 Wisconsin Avenue NW for a shop named Petite Soeur, which means “little sister” in French. The store will sell Pearson’s intricately painted bonbons, sablés (French butter cookies), brittles, chocolate bars, and other treats. There is a small kitchen and additional space in the basement for tasks like packing and shipping orders.
Bonbons that nod to French cuisine will include Pearson’s version of a s’more, with vanilla marshmallow, graham cracker sablé, and salted dark chocolate ganache. An almond butter and jelly flavor features almond butter ganache and homemade strawberry jam in milk chocolate.
Pearson founded Petite Soeur in 2019 and began selling her sweets online, to wholesale customers, and at pop-ups held at places like Glen’s Garden Market (now Dawson’s Market).
She worked as pastry chef at high-end European tasting menu destination Marcel’s in Foggy Bottom before receiving a scholarship from the D.C. chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a philanthropic organization of women in the food and hospitality fields, to attend Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.
After returning stateside, she became head chocolatier at Thomas Keller’s New York restaurant, Per Se, where she developed a love for the medium.
“I had always been a pastry chef making these plated desserts with all these components, but I was like, ‘I can put so many flavors and say so many things with just one bite of chocolate,’” Pearson says.
The name Petite Soeur is a reference to Pearson’s three brothers, who all still call her their little sister even though she’s not the youngest. “Even at 32, they still call me their little sister,” she says. “So, it’s kind of been something that’s stuck with me.”
The Petite Soeur space, formerly cookie dough bar the Dough Jar, will have a “minimal and straightforward” look, Pearson says, with a black-and-white color scheme designed to draw the eye to the bright, multicolored chocolates. Pearson hopes her small store will be a boon for the local culture within a neighborhood that attracts lots of tourists and shoppers.
“That’s what you, I think, go to Georgetown for, that special unique thing, and to know the person behind it,” she says. “When they come into my shop, you know your chocolatier. Your chocolatier is me. I’m the ‘little sister,’ and I’m right there.”