15 July, 2021
Local businesses mark major milestones
Devonport Chocolates still sweet after 30 years
Boutique chocolate makers Stephanie and Caroline Everitt are happy to see their customers enjoy just as much – or as little – chocolate as they fancy.
“People will sidle into the shop and say I’ll only have one,” says Stephanie, managing director of Devonport Chocolates.
“I say, ‘That’s perfect – it’s just like the French eat it.’”
Whatever a customer’s preferences, the pair take pleasure in sharing what daughter Caroline describes as the “moment of joy” that indulging in quality chocolate delivers.
And they are counting their blessings that the good taste of loyal local customers has supported their business through 30 years.
Covid-19 wiped out their tourist trade last year. “Then January and February were some of the worst months ever,” says Caroline. Domestic visitors were wary of Auckland and there was no bonanza from America’s Cup yacht racing.
But the outlook is now improving, with more New Zealanders visiting Auckland and even some Australians appearing around the village, travel bubbles permitting.
A second store, opened 10 years ago in Queens Arcade in the CBD, continues to trade thanks to “very kind landlords” and the support of office workers.
Here in Devonport, the locals keep popping into the Wynyard St premises, be it for a little daily treat, for gifts or to continue family traditions around Easter and Christmas. “We’ve become embedded in people’s lives, which is lovely,” says Caroline.
Stephanie’s vision, when she bought the business 22 years ago, was always to look to the future. Along with husband Terry and then university-student helper Caroline, they opened the retail store 20 years ago. This consolidated manufacturing on-site with retail sales, underlining their hand-made artisanal approach.
High-end couverture methods were introduced, using cocoa butter, rather than compound chocolate, which is often made with palm oil. The company expanded beyond the gift market, to target chocolate connoisseurs and supply upmarket hotels.
Caroline, who was drawn back into the family business 12 years ago, looks after the retail and communications side, with Stephanie handling wholesaling and costings. They collaborate on product development, and Terry is the finance man. Caroline teases her mother, now an energetic 70, that she is not sure she wants to inherit looking after all of it.
To mark Devonport Chocolates’ 30th in style, a staff dinner is planned and there’s a special celebration box on sale.
To stay relevant, the business regularly trials flavours in response to culinary trends and the desire to hero local ingredients. One of its newest is a vegan blend of lemon and olive oil.
A topseller, its Hauraki Salted Caramel, takes its name not from the peninsula suburb where Caroline lives, but from the Gulf. It incorporates salt from Maraetai. Feijoa and other fruit fillings are also popular.
Stephanie says shoppers are becoming more adventurous. The taste for healthier dark chocolate is also on the rise, she says. This more intense flavour fits in with her ideal of quality over quantity. “That’s the way you should eat it, not like a block of cheese.”
Fleet St Panelbeaters knocks up half a century
Some businesses never go out of fashion – and the bumps, dents and scrapes that are part of every motorist’s life have proved an ongoing conveyor belt for Fleet St Panel Beaters.
The family firm marked 50 years in Devonport last week, making it easily the village’s oldest.
Dennis Hale started Fleet St as a one-man band on 9 July 1971. “It was 12 hours a day seven days a week back then,” he recalled last week.
The business has grown to its current staff of 12, and physically expanded to take in the paint shop downstairs. Two years ago, it took over and renovated the neighbouring shop (formerly Nord) for its office.
This was the cue for Dennis to retire from the business after 48 years, and also marked the departure of his wife, Dianne, who did the accounts for decades.
They had been in partnership since 1988 with son Nathan – who has now taken over the reins, with the help of his wife, Rebecca, who also works as an interior designer.
After five decades, the panel beaters is still located in the same spot – on the edge of the New World car park, with the odd supermarket crunch a steady source of work.
“We get a few come out of there every year,” Nathan says, with a hint of a smile. Fleet St Panel Beaters continues to do what it has always done – repair panels and accident damage.
The shop changed to using water-based paints five years ago. And now electric vehicles are starting to come in.
“The repair work is the same, but there’s a lot more work to get it to that stage – they have to be shut down by an electrician first,” says Nathan.
Fleet St hasn’t got anything major plannned to celebrate 50 years in business.
“It’s kind of crept up on us,” says Nathan. “I don’t know where the last 10 years have gone.”
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