By Ingrid Jacobson
SUE Dash’s handmade Australiana chocolates are each one out of the box and Wanneroo Mayor Tracey Roberts is obviously a connoisseur.
During the recent Wanneroo Business Association’s annual awards, Ms Dash, proprietor of Chocolate Drops in Yanchep took out The Mayor’s Visionary Award.
Describing Chocolate Drops as “a well-known local icon”, Cr Roberts said the business had also acted as an international lure for the Yanchep National Park, where it was based.
“Tourists from far and wide make the trip to visit the business, because of our award recipient,” she said.
“(Her business) recently completed the China Ready and Accredited Program and experienced an enormous increase of Chinese visitors in recent months.
“This is a massive achievement and a huge draw card for tourism in the City of Wanneroo.
“And despite the business’s success and opportunity to go into mass production, the product has remained authentically local.”
However, despite having a swathe of awards behind her from a career spanning 30 years working with chocolate, Ms Dash is “absolutely amazed” at being the recipient of this one.
“That award usually goes to longstanding business people who have been in the area for years,” she said.
“I’ve only been here for 15 years so it was a wonderful feeling.”
Visionary is an apt word to describe the cheerful chocolatier, who started small, creating handmade sweet treats from her home, then in South Australia, as a way of making money while her children were young.
She then worked in the kitchen of a local coffee shop, which after 18 months, she ended up buying.
It was after holidaying on the Gold Coast and seeing the lack of local handmade confectionery at the big theme parks that she had the idea of creating chocolates shaped in the form of the cute creatures from the Australian bush.
Selling to parks such as Movie World, she soon made a name for herself and ended up moving to Queensland after being offered the job of manager at Willie Wonkers Chocolate Shop.
Then her father, who lived in Perth, became ill so she decided to head home, and in 2003, opened Chocolate Drops in the Two Rocks Shopping Centre.
One of her clients was The Tearooms in Yanchep National Park and she soon received an offer to relocate Chocolate Drops to the park and manage the entire venue herself.
That was 11 years ago, and in December, Ms Dash will not only celebrate that anniversary, but also the modest beginnings of her chocolate career.
“There’s something about December,” she laughed, admitting that the month is also one of the busiest in the lead-up to Christmas.
And little wonder, considering the exquisite range of chocolates she and her staff of seven create.
Koalas, kangaroos, wombats, frilled neck lizards and even boomerangs are a hit with tourists, especially from overseas.
The best seller is a chocolate gift box containing a selection of Australiana chocolates, while others, including an intricately decorated chocolate champagne bottle are also popular.
As are the chocolate sculptures created for many occasions.
One of the most unusual requests was made by a family who owned a pig farm – they wanted the bride and groom in the middle and pink little pigs surrounding them.
Another, a chocolate tool set, was crafted for local mechanical business, The Flying Spanner.
Ironically, despite making a living from chocolate, she doesn’t eat the sweet treat.
“After 30 years, I’m all chocolated out,” she laughed.
“But my children still buy me chocolate as a present because they know they will end up getting it back.’’