Chocolate dreams still just as sweet
KAYE Edwards is a believer.
She believes in having a vision and working hard to make it come true.
And that's exactly what she did 21 years ago to bring The Chocolate Cottage and Café to life with husband Colin in April 1997.
She started out with a dream of owning her own chocolate shop.
"I wanted to create a place that people would step through the door and into another world and leave all their worries behind and relax," she said.
She found the perfect location in the old Highfields State School (circa 1877 and then operating as an art gallery), and set up shop with four tables and chairs.
"It was perfect - right on the edge of the range with these wonderful views," Kaye said.
But it wasn't easy.
She and Colin used the deposit they had been saving for a house to plow into the business, and for years she worked 10-hour days six-days-a week while the pair also cared for their toddler daughter.
These days The Chocolate Cottage and Café has 25 staff, produces all its own chocolates - over 100 varieties - handmade in moulds in-house, and the cafe seats 230 people and serves meals six days a week.
It's also surrounded by its own mini-village, with six other boutique businesses springing up, including quilting, gifts and home décor, art, high-end shoes, skin and beauty care, and a wellbeing cottage.
"It's a real destination now," Kaye said.
But while the growth has been overwhelming, Kaye said it had not taken away from her original vision of a peaceful haven to escape to.
She still loves going to work each day and is excited to create new chocolates.
While strawberry creams are her favourites, she said the cottage's signature was the Chocolate Yumball - a malt ball, wrapped in caramel fudge, rice crisps, peanuts and dipped in layers of chocolate.
Choc-dipped Turkish delights and homemade fudge are crowd favourites, but Kaye said the novelty chocolates, such as the pigs, 'fried egg' and caramel cane toads were as popular with adults as with kids.
And with Easter around the corner, there's rocky road eggs in abundance.
Kaye said she didn't want to compete with the supermarkets at Easter, and found many customers preferred to create their own unique specially wrapped gift boxes, with just a few little eggs added for the occasion.
As for celebrating 21 years in business, Kaye said they had been so busy they hadn't come up with a plan as yet.
But she said the anniversary had made her reflect on the kids who had passed through the store over the years, coming in with parents after school, then getting jobs there, and now bringing in their own children.
"It's really lovely to see the generations coming through," she said.
"It really is just like a big family; it's a wonderful culture and environment and all the staff are really passionate about what we're doing."
You can enjoy coffee and a chocolate from $5, and the cottage is wheelchair-friendly.
You can find it at 10475 New England Highway, Highfields or call 4630 8729.