Former ACT opposition leader Alistair Coe and his wife, Yasmin, have purchased the popular Robyn Rowe Chocolates business on Nanima Road in Murrumbateman.
Robyn Rowe Chocolates and the separate four-bedroom cottage, set on 9.6 hectares, sold at auction on Sunday, 16 May, for $1,708,000, which was $183,000 above the buyer’s guide.
Ms Coe and her mother, Karen Burraston, operate an artisan chocolate supply and online sales business in Canberra called Sweet Pea and Poppy.
She confirmed Robyn Rowe Chocolates would remain a chocolate business and that they were due to exchange by early September.
“Robyn and her family have created something really beautiful and I aim to honour her legacy,” said Ms Coe.
“There will certainly continue to be a chocolate experience for customers in the region, which we’re looking forward to and will have more to say about nearer to the time.”
Chocolate is a long-held hobby and passion for Ms Coe and her mother, who use native ingredients such as Davidson plum, quandong and peach in some of their chocolates, and cater to increasing demand for vegan and fair trade chocolate.
“We only use chocolate that is ethical and responsibly produced and traceable back to the source,” Ms Coe previously told Region Media.
“We have some amazing flavours along with some traditional chocolates with simple things such as sprinkles. One of our popular products at Easter has been a 200g egg coated in raspberry pieces that really replicates the flavours of the fruit.”
Mr and Ms Coe bid against two Canberrans and a local who intended to run businesses at the property, but not a chocolate business, according to agent George Southwell from Ray White Rural Canberra/Yass.
The auction was watched by more than 80 people who enjoyed cups of hot chocolate supplied by Ms Rowe.
Mr Southwell said the sale was high for a 9.6-hectare property with a humble home.
“The healthy competition pushed it into a higher bracket,” he said. “Robyn is happy with the result and looks forward to moving on.”
Ms Rowe 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, Ms Rowe and her family left the country behind and moved to Sydney.
Ms Rowe 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 – Ms Rowe continued her creative pursuits by selling needlework at the popular Hall Markets and as part of the Gift Makers of Yass cooperative.
She also loved 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 Mr Rowe and their children – Chris, Ben, Sophie, Lucy and Tim – Ms Rowe 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 – Ms Rowe knew she had found her calling, and Robyn Rowe Chocolates was born.
The business continued to grow with Ms Rowe’s chocolates winning gold medals and ‘Champion Chocolate’ at the Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show in 2009 and 2010.
At the same show, in 2011, Ms Rowe was awarded ‘The Most Successful Chocolate Exhibitor’, receiving one gold and five silver medals for her entries.
Sadly, Mr Rowe died five-and-a-half years ago and Ms Rowe said 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 said.
Ms Rowe said the shop had been busier than usual since she announced her retirement.
“People are coming out of the woodwork,” she said. “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.”