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Canberra Today 17°/21° | Monday, December 6, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Life takes a sweet turn for the chocolatiering Coes

“A million miles away from anywhere”… Yasmin Coe. Photo: Holly Treadaway

TWELVE months ago, former ACT Opposition Leader Alistair Coe and his wife Yasmin suffered a personal setback with the devastating loss of the ACT election.

Having led the party to its sixth election defeat in a row, the former Canberra Liberals leader – and his wife – decided to leave public life behind them, bringing down the curtain on Mr Coe’s 12 year parliamentary career. 

But the couple are hoping for sweeter pickings following their purchase of a country chocolate shop and an associated move across the border.

“It’s a special place,” Ms Coe said.

“We are really happy to be here.”

In May, the Coes forked out $1.7 million for Robyn Rowe’s renowned chocolate shop, located just outside the territory in Murrumbateman.

Ms Coe, an accountant and self-taught chocolatier, has determined that the chocolate shop – which has recently reopened – will continue to operate under the Robyn Rowe name offering the full range of chocolates the business was well known for.

Ms Rowe – Murrumbateman’s chocolate lady – hung up her apron earlier this year, after almost two decades of chocolate making from her shop at the family’s Boolarong property.

“It was a no-brainer to keep it going,” Ms Coe said.

“So, we have kept Robyn Rowe Chocolates exactly as it was, but without Robyn; the same recipes, the same products and the same team making the chocolates.”

The chocolate shop is located on a 9.6ha property on Nanima Road and includes a separate four-bedroom cottage where the Coes have taken up residence with their two young children.

The couple have taken to country life with gusto, with the former parliamentary leader turning his hand to chicken-coop building in his spare time.

“Al built the chicken house, and he made the retail shelves in the chocolate shop… he’s really handy and very supportive,” Ms Coe said.

“Anyone on a property knows there is no shortage of jobs, so Al is taking charge of maintenance around the property and family stuff on the weekends.”

Ms Coe, who has resigned from her job in the tax office, will incorporate her own unique chocolate creations sold under the name “Sweet Pea & Poppy” into the existing Robyn Rowe range of confectionery. 

While it’s a family business, the day-to-day responsibility of the chocolate shop rests with Ms Coe, following Mr Coe taking up a position as a partner with Canberra-based lobbying group DPG Advisory Solutions.

Since the couple’s exit from public life, Ms Coe revealed it’s not something the family would go back to.

“We are certainly watching Elizabeth Lee and the team and we think they are doing a fantastic job, but we are not missing that for our family,” Ms Coe said.

It was an enormous decision for the Coes to embark on a new venture, made more difficult against the backdrop of the COVID-19 experience, but it’s been a worthwhile journey, Ms Coe said.

“Certainly there were some bumps in the road in that we moved during the lockdown, we were home-schooling the kids and were unable to open because of restrictions, but it allowed time to get things sorted out and to get into a groove,” Ms Coe said.

“It’s nice to be open.” 

The business includes a new retail space for locally produced products, and Ms Coe has assured customers that the ever popular chocolate cafe will remain a permanent fixture.

“We have kept Robyn’s original recipe hot chocolate, which is very popular, as well as her iced chocolate, and we do a range of cakes and treats on weekends,” Ms Coe said.

“Our indoor retail space has handmade jigsaw puzzles, tea blended in Canberra, locally made fig jam and preserves, Australian made Christmas puddings and pottery from Gundaroo.

“We also have a beautiful undercover verandah and spacious lawns overlooking the dam. It’s been nice to see families and friends out enjoying the sunshine again.”

Chocolate making has been a long-held passion for Ms Coe, who said the family have been warmly embraced by the community they now proudly call home.

“We both duck into Canberra regularly, Al’s working there and the kids are still at school in Canberra, but there is something serene about driving back down Nanima Road,” Ms Coe said.

“It’s beautiful, peaceful and so green out here, and the community is lovely.”

The end of a career in public life is an opportunity to reinvent oneself, and the Coes are living proof that there is a life beyond politics.

“It’s been a really nice change,” Ms Coe said.

“It’s peaceful here and you do feel like you are a million miles away from anywhere.”

 

 

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Belinda Strahorn

Belinda Strahorn

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