Chocs away for business success in Denbigh chocolate shop
By Ceidiog Hughes
Entrepreneur Mary Tetley is enjoying the sweet taste of success thanks to a combination of the recession and the aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate. Business is booming at the Denbigh Chocolate Shop she founded with her husband, Mark Young, on World Chocolate Day in 2009. Establishing the shop near the top of Vale Street was a dream come true for Mary, a self-confessed chocoholic. And it was made possible by the dying wish of her mother, Thelma, who passed away three years ago.
Mary, a mother-of-one, said: “She left an envelope for the three children and in each one there was a small amount of money with a message saying ‘Go and live your dream’. I have always dreamt of having a chocolate shop, that’s always been my dream since I was very young. The bequest wasn’t quite enough to do all of this but it spurred me on. I went off tasting chocolate everywhere, including Belgium and France. I put on about two stone in weight and I haven’t sorted that out yet.”
By day, Mary is kept busy as the Chief Executive of the British Sub-Aqua Club which is based in Ellesmere Port and has 48,000 members worldwide. So she relies heavily on Mark who manages the shop which now also employs 10 part-time members of staff. According to Mary, Denbighshire County Council also played a crucial role in the success of the shop.
She recalled: “When I was setting the shop up, I was helped by Denbighshire Council who put me in touch with Denbighshire Enterprise Agency. One of their business consultants came along to help and he was absolutely brilliant. I had five hour-long sessions with Glyn Joseph and he talked me through a business plan and a marketing plan. When it’s your own money it’s pretty daunting so it’s good to have somebody who is not involved to help you. We then submitted an application for a Rural Development Plan Business Development Grant and we were successful in getting £5,000 which helped buy the coffee machine. The council also helped with improving the shop frontage and pointed me to the availability of financial help with the painting and decorating.. They got in touch to let us know when there was a reduction in the business rates – so I am a big fan of the council. They have been really, really helpful.”
Mary and Mark haven’t looked back since the shop opened and, in addition to the tea room, they have now opened a traditional sweet shop on the first floor. There is also a wedding consultation room where people can come and choose chocolate wedding favours while the top floor can be booked for children’s chocolate parties.
At first glance the timing may have appeared inauspicious as the shop opened in the teeth of a recession. But it turned out to be a masterstroke and there are plans to open more chocolate shops across North Wales.
Mary said: “We sell Leonidas which is a premium Belgian chocolate made by a long-established family-run firm of chocolatiers. It is the chocolate that the Belgians eat, their preferred chocolate and there are Leonidas shops all over the place. In London you can buy it in Selfridges and Harrods. It’s 100 per cent cocoa butter so it’s rich chocolate. Even if you’re a chocoholic, you only need one or two – although you don’t have to stop there. The dream now is to open more chocolate shops but first we want to make sure that this shop is absolutely right so we can use it as a model. The shop in Denbigh will always be the mother ship and we want to replicate the levels of service and fun when we roll the brand out across North Wales. I love people and l love the way chocolate makes people feel, I like people enjoying themselves so it’s a really lovely combination. In a recession chocolate sales go up hugely. It’s comfort eating, so people treat themselves – and it’s not expensive. Chocolate makes you feel good because it releases endorphins in your brain. Endorphins are also apparently released when you’re making love – it’s an aphrodisiac. Wine goes well with chocolate so it can make for a lovely romantic evening.”
Sue Haygarth, Denbighshire’s Principal Area Regeneration and Investment Officer, is delighted that the Denbigh Chocolate Shop has proved such a big success. She said: “The drive and enthusiasm shown by Mary has been exemplary while and I hope her story will encourage other enterprising people to create new businesses in Denbighshire. I can also vouch for the excellence of the mouth-watering chocolate on offer. I believe she really has found the recipe for success.”