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New owners: Nicki & Adrian Straton!!

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Nicki & Adrian Straton
Chocolate Mill owners

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Having fun in the kitchen!





Original Owners .. the dream begins

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Jennifer Gregory & Chris Weippert
Chocolate Mill owners




The beginnings of Chocolate Mill:
An interview with Chris Weippert


Dreaming and searching


The dream started in January 2000 with the idea of building an environmentally friendly business, using only the best quality ingredients and of course 100% European Chocolate.

This is when I met Jennifer Gregory, at a restaurant that was running latin dance classes and we fell in love. At the time Jen was working in the IT industry and teaching. But I also found out that she had spent 9 years as a Qualified Chef working 3 years in Germany.

In January 2001 Jen and I moved from Perth to Daylesford. Jen worked in Melbourne and Ballarat commuting daily and I worked on getting the building under way. In August that year we moved from 'the ice box' unit in Hepburn to a shed on the property that I had built, so that we could save enough money to meet "the bank's requirements". This move proved to be the best thing. With the wood stove to cook on and to keep us warm the 5 x 6m insulated shed proved to be a great home for the 28 months that we lived in it. For the first 20 months we had no electricity. We were also living on $7 per day for food for the two of us, which ruled out any extras.


Building the dream


In February 2002 the steel frame was finally put up. Within a week we had the joists for the first floor up and plywood down. At the end of 3 the roof was on- we were on a roll. For the next 20 months I worked on the building 6 days a week - on Sunday we had waffles and a sleep in ;) Some days it seemed like nothing got done and others heaps.

The big challenge came when we decided to go to Canada for three weeks at Christmas. The list of what needed to be done prior to getting on the plane in six weeks was immense. We had to have the first coat of earth render on the house before leaving, due to the risk of fire. So work started at 8am, have supper at 9:15pm, in bed at 10pm and in six weeks sleep on the plane to Canada. Well, the first coat of rendering was finished the night before we left. I was still boarding up the place the next morning, trying not to be late for the plane. 3 weeks of sleeping in Canada and we were back home in the shed and back to work on the house at a lighter pace.

It was some time in March that we finally got the power on. Wow, we had a fridge, we had lights -very bright!- and computer.

Throughout building Jen had made several chocolate contacts around the world. In 2001 she entered the Melbourne Food and Wine Easter Egg Competition, and was a finalist. Along with working full time in Melbourne and Ballarat, Jen went to workshops and demonstrations to find out more about working with chocolate.

Setting up the business side


In July 2003 Jen's contract in Ballarat finished so we decided that it was time to take the plunge. Jen put all her time into getting things ready to open - so much to organise and to design, have made, printed, find, order, double check and triple check. We wanted it so that when we opened we would make a big impression right from the start. Two weeks before opening we had $44.00 in the bank and we realised we couldn't hold off any longer to open.

November 20- day before we opened- madness, panic, so much to do, so little time. 3am after washing the floor it was bed time.

November 21, 2003 6am out of bed - still so much to finish before opening at 10. At 10:05 our very first customers walk in and we find our scales are not working and the computer set up for the till not wanting to work either. At 10:20 we're still trying to get the machines working. Our customer says that she is heading to Castlemaine and will stop on her way back - yeah right- so, feeling bad, we gave her a free chocolate thinking that we should have put off opening for another week. Early in the afternoon our first customer returned, asking for more of the chocolates that we had given her, and she bought all of them - the full tray. That was the start of the "I'll have that tray and that one too" chocoholic frenzy.

cheers

Tim, Chris, Jen and Joanne celebrate the end of Day 1 with champers :-)

flowers from Canada

Beautiful flowers and wishes sent from our family in Canada
and the guestbook for our opening


Since our first year we have been overwhelmed by amount of true chocoholics that have returned over and over, as well as the support from locals and local businesses.

Then also within our first year we were very lucky to win the Goldfields Best New Business Award 2004.

Building the Hot Chocolate Cafe


In September 2005 we took it upon ourselves to start building the extension, which would house the Hot Chocolate Cafe. I worked 4 days a week on building and the other 3 days and nights keeping up my end up on chocolate production. During this time Jen managed to keep the chocolate rolling as the demand steadily increased. At this point we had 10 staff members to manage as well and the paperwork grew into a mountain.

In 2006 we opened the Hot Chocolate Cafe which has been another enormous success, with our style of the Ultimate Hot Chocolate getting high praise from serious hot chocolate fanatics. Within the first 3 weeks we realised what we had done to ourselves when on one Sunday we had 55 Vintage cars drive in with at least 2 per people car to pack out the cafe along with the rest of the Sunday crowds. Boy was this a long day. And so the Chocolate story continues


chocolates