14 September 2021

A sweet surprise: Robyn Rowe retires but her chocolates and name will live on

| Hannah Sparks
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Robyn Rowe selling chocolate to children

Robyn Rowe’s name and original chocolate recipes will continue under new ownership. Photo: Ray White Rural Yass/Canberra.

What’s in a name? A lot, according to Yasmin Coe, who will retain the Robyn Rowe Chocolates name cherished for nearly two decades by Yass Valley residents.

The chocolatier and her husband, former ACT Opposition Leader Alistair Coe, purchased the popular business, separate four-bedroom cottage and surrounding 9.6 hectares on Nanima Road in Murrumbateman in May 2021.

Yasmin says the purchase was the right opportunity at the right time, and just the tree-change the Coe family had been looking for.

And even though Robyn Rowe decided to hang up her apron aged 79, that doesn’t mean her recipes won’t live on.

“For now, it will look much the same,” says Yasmin. “We’ll continue the beautiful business Robyn created and developed.

“The same staff are staying on. They’re terrific, a beautiful group of women and I’m really looking forward to working with them. They will choose the chocolates that will be available based on the chocolates they enjoy making and know customers prefer.”

Yasmin’s handmade chocolates, sold under the business name of Sweet Pea & Poppy, which she started with her mother, Karen Burraston, will also be sold in the Nanima Road store.

It’s an opportunity for Yasmin to grow the business that had reached capacity in her commercial kitchen and three-by-four square-metre studio at home in Canberra.

“We’ve never had a retail outlet, but we’ve been really fortunate to provide the chocolates to a lot of Australian businesses on a wholesale basis and then they retail it in their stores,” she says.

“That has just been terrific. I’ve loved working with independent Australian businesses, getting to know the owners and often working really collaboratively with them.”

Yasmin Coe

Yasmin Coe is excited to make and sell her handmade chocolates on Nanima Road in Murrumbateman. Photo: File.

Sweet Pea & Poppy chocolates are made from ethical and responsibly produced ingredients. They are also known for their interesting flavour combinations – think pomegranate and wildflowers – and intricate designs.

Yasmin always had a taste for chocolate, but didn’t find the time to grow her passion into a business until she went on maternity leave with her and Alistair’s youngest child.

“My love affair with chocolate started quite young,” she says. “When I was 18, I did my first proper short course in the art of chocolate making. I always had a dream of doing chocolate after school, but I didn’t allow myself to do it at the time.”

The chocolate lover went on to pursue administration and commerce – skills that would stand her in good stead when Sweet Pea & Poppy took off.

“I always did something chocolatey on the side,” says Yasmin. “I often made corporate gifts for my dad’s business, and gifts for friend’s and family member’s events. People often said I should do it as a business and it was something I always wanted to do.”

Yasmin’s mother was instrumental in getting Sweet Pea & Poppy off the ground while Yasmin had a baby and toddler in tow.

“A lot of my business journey has been inspired by what my mum did,” says Yasmin. “Growing up in Canberra, mum ran her own creative business from home. She had a home studio where she made curtains and soft furnishings. She was really great at what she did and was largely a one-woman band. She did everything from big construction contracts to hotel fit-outs – you name it.

“She gave me a blueprint and a bit of an idea of what’s possible while juggling a young family, but also working from home.”

Robyn Rowe Chocolates officially became Yasmin and Alistair’s on Monday, 13 September, 2021.

They hope to reopen the business and celebrate the opening of Sweet Pea & Poppy’s first retail space as soon as COVID-19 restrictions permit.

The exhibition area Robyn established will also reopen and will be taking new artists, with Canberra-based landscape artist Susan Appleby already locked in.

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