The name Robyn Rowe Chocolates will evoke sweet memories for anyone who has lived in Canberra and the Yass Valley since 2012.
Chocolate lovers of all ages spend weekends and school holidays there with one question in mind: “Which will it be today – hazelnut praline, a honey log, Clonakilla muscat mousse or peppermint, perhaps?”
However, another question springs to mind following news Robyn Rowe will hang up her apron ahead of her 80th birthday in November 2021: what will become of the chocolate business we’ve grown so fond of?
George Southwell from Ray White Rural Canberra and Yass is the agent selling Robyn Rowe Chocolates and the separate four-bedroom cottage, set on 9.6 hectares, at auction on 16 May.
He says there has been a “good level of interest” from Canberrans in the property, particularly because it is difficult to buy anything smaller than 30 acres in the area, and because the buyer’s guide is $1.525 million.
George says it will be up to the buyer whether they continue the chocolate business or run the shop as something else.
“They could buy it and convert the shop into a second dwelling; buy and rent out the shop to create an additional income stream; or buy and run their own business in the shop – a chocolate business or not,” he says.
Robyn says the shop has been busier than usual since she announced her retirement.
“People are coming out of the woodwork,” she tells Region Media. “Some are coming in crying, others are telling me stories about their connection to my place. It is very emotional and I am realising this place has meant much more than chocolate to so many people.
“We are struggling to cope with the numbers and are almost out of chocolates. We are having to work all of tomorrow to get extras in to fill orders and have stock for the shop. I guess it is a good problem to have.”
Robyn was born in Cowra and started her career as a mothercraft nurse – a baby and toddler sleep expert – before marrying and joining her husband, Denis, on his family’s local property.
At the height of the drought, and after the sale of the family property in 1981, Robyn and her family left the country behind and moved to Sydney. Robyn was motivated to explore her creative talents in fine art and craft. Her hobby soon developed into a source of income – she sold her art, drawing, folk art and embroidery work at shows and markets around Sydney.
After their move back to the land – to a property at Murrumbateman – Robyn continued her creative pursuits by selling needlework at the popular Hall Markets and as part of the Gift Makers of Yass cooperative.
She also loves to bake – petite pastries and tarts in particular – but it was a story in a magazine about the Margaret River Chocolate Company that opened her eyes to the possibilities of boutique chocolate making.
With the support of Denis and their children – Chris, Ben, Sophie, Lucy and Tim – Robyn studied the art of chocolate making in Sydney and Melbourne, and travelled to Europe to research the methods of renowned Belgian chocolatiers.
After the success of her first contract – making chocolates for a local wedding – Robyn knew she had found her calling, and Robyn Rowe Chocolates was born.
The business has continued to grow with Robyn’s chocolates winning gold medals and ‘Champion Chocolate’ at the Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show in both 2009 and 2010. At the same show, in 2011, Robyn was awarded ‘The Most Successful Chocolate Exhibitor’, receiving one gold and five silver medals for her entries.
However, Denis sadly died five-and-a-half years ago and Robyn says it’s too hard to keep going at her age.
“It is time to move on and have freedom again to be with the family I love, my old friends who I have neglected, and have some other exciting adventures,” she says.