TATAMAGOUCHE, N.S. – A sweet, gentle aroma rises up from the pot of liquid chocolate as Michael Foote steps up to the counter to greet a customer.
And, just like all the customers who have come before her, the woman in front of him is also wearing a look of happy anticipation her face.
“I do something that puts a smile on people’s faces before they even walk through the door,” says Foote, who along with his wife Heather, owns and operates the Appleton Chocolates Company in Tatamagouche.
Those smiles represent a vast change in attitudes from past vocations in the auto and banking industries where “nobody’s happy and you’re always the bad guy,” he says, with a chuckle.
Appleton Chocolates was founded in Appleton, Cumberland County (near Wentworth) about 20 years ago by Foote’s stepfather Alan Huestis.
Five years ago, Foote and his wife who were living in Edmonton, packed up their twin sons and moved to Nova Scotia to take over the chocolate business when Huestis and Foote’s mother Beth were getting set to retire.
“I just loved the idea of making something that made people happy,” Foote says, of the decision to become a chocolatier.
In May, 2016, they moved to Tatamagouche when business growth forced them to find a bigger location. And, now, they are preparing to move again for the same reason.
“Less than two years later we’re so busy that we can’t do it here anymore,” Foote says of their current location within The Tipperary Bakery & Café on Main Street.
“We have to move to a bigger space,” he says. “We didn’t expect to need additional equipment or additional staff that quickly, however, in our first year here, we over tripled our business. “We’re growing so fast, we’re actually at the point where our processes are unable to keep up with demand.”
Fortunately, the Footes were able to find vacant space in the former doctor’s office next door to their current location, so their next move, beginning early in the New Year, will be short one.
After the warm welcome they received following their move to Tatamagouche the couple say they have no desire to locate their business anywhere else.
“There’s a real good community feel here. A lot of support…they want us to succeed,” Michael Foote says.
“It’s a welcoming community,” Heather adds.
Appleton Chocolates ships their sweets worldwide with all products either produced or sourced through Nova Scotia or Maritime companies. The chocolate comes from France and Belguim but it too is sourced through a Maritime firm.
“Our whole basis is local sustainability,” Michael says.
“And we’re the only one in the world that makes a maple and wild blueberry truffle. Making the maple fondant is a very secret process of ours. And it comes out with a perfectly smooth fondant that most feel is very important to a proper fine candy or fine chocolate.”
Michael has added one flavour of maple cream and milk chocolate, which wasn’t previously available, and his “greatest creation at the moment” is a coffee bark made from freshly roasted, freshly ground expresso and milk chocolate.
Other recipes contain currants or cranberries and both dark and milk chocolates are used in their creations.
“We’re not adding flavourings. You are actually tasting the individual ingredients as opposed to a flavour,” Foote says.
“I like the versatility of chocolate. There is so much you can do with it. And even though it is one of the most-used products across the world, there is still so much you can do, individual twists you can add to it to make it your own.”
The couple is looking forward to getting set up in their new, large quarters and continuing to watch their business grow.
But despite how busy they get, Michael says he never tires of watching customer reactions when they are purchasing or tasting his chocolate.
“We wanted to come home and we came home to something we could love,” he says, grinning broadly himself.