By Lucas Schofield
Chocolatiers carry out an age-old tradition of creating sweet surprises in flavors limited only by their imaginations.
The team at Appleton Chocolates in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, lives and breathes that tradition, but with a distinctly sweet, Nova Scotian twist.
Appleton Chocolates is owned and operated by Heather Foote and her husband, Michael. They’re best known for their maple and wild blueberry chocolates and, to their knowledge, they are the only company in the world that makes them. Their signature product is a truffle made of hand rolled maple fondant of locally sourced maple syrup, and mixed with different ingredients such as wild blueberries, cherries, cranberries and other flavors. They’re dipped twice in French dark, Belgian milk or white chocolate.
“All of the ingredients that go into making our chocolates are either produced locally or sourced from local businesses,” says Foote. “It’s our way of helping to give back to the community.”
The idea to take over the business came from a desire to leave Alberta, and relocate to Michael’s home province of Nova Scotia three-and-a-half years ago.
“Entrepreneurship gave us the opportunity to move Nova Scotia that we didn’t think we would get,” she recalls, adding that they took over the business from its founder, Michael’s stepfather, Alan Huestis, who originally operated it out of a one room cabin in the community of Appleton, near Wentworth, Nova Scotia.
Heather, who grew up on a farm in rural Alberta, says she and her husband learned the art of crafting chocolate confections only after they took the reins at Appleton; she had some knowledge of maple syrup, and a general idea of how to work with chocolate, but it took some time to perfect their processes.
“It’s a small chocolate shop, so the biggest challenge we face is being able to keep up with the demand and the orders we receive,” says Heather, who also adds that trying to balance work and family life can be tough at times.
Her days are busy: Heather begins by getting her children (twin boys) ready and off to school; after that, she arrives at the shop and starts on production, which involves hand-rolling about 500 centers for the 13 different truffle flavour they sell. By afternoon, Heather is usually packaging chocolates or filling orders that have been placed until she has to go pick up the kids. She also works on bookkeeping and answering emails.
“Knowing how to manage your time is key,” she stresses. “My family is my biggest motivator, and the driving force behind my passion for the business.”
Looking back on how far they’ve come, and how much they’ve learned over the past three years, Heather says she is excited about the growth of the business, where they are now, and what will come in the future.
The best part? Besides getting the opportunity to live in rural Nova Scotia, it’s “making people happy.”
“It is very rare we see a customer leave without a smile on their face,” she says.
That’s what good chocolate can do, and it’s what keeps Appleton Chocolates booming and growing in popularity.
Competition in business is commonplace but, according to Heather, it has no influence on Appleton Chocolates. Where their products are completely unique in the world, she says, they don’t find themselves competing with big brand chocolate retailers.
A greater issue has been taking over an already thriving business that had a life and an impact on the surrounding community since 1997, she says; the act of “making it your own without losing customers or the business itself.”
“Fortunately, we received mentorship and influence from many people within our community,” she adds, which made the transition much easier.
Another resource was the Centre for Women in Business.
“I became a member because of the tools available to help small businesses grow and become successful,” says Heather. She calls it a, “support system” that she can turn to when she needs advice, mentorship or education on all aspects of owning a business.
Looking to the future, Heather has a vision for her business that includes a new storefront and manufacturing facility, right next to its current location at 259 Main Street, Tatamagouche.
The new facility is now under construction, and will open in spring of 2018.
They goal? “More business, and a chance to create even more unique confections!”