Sweet move for artisan chocolatier
Easter is synonymous with chocolate and Lincolnshire Life’s search for luxury eggs and confectionery took us
to No. 12 Chocolatier in Kirton in Lindsey.
Surveyor to sweet maker was not on Paul North’s mind ten years ago, when he was diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS.
“It was a massive blow to the whole family,” said Paul. “My wife Lynn and daughter Stacey were working in property letting and management and I travelled long distances as a surveyor for a national home improvement company. As my health deteriorated I could no longer carry out my job. The next year was one of adjustment and coming to terms with my illness.”
Paul enrolled at Lincoln College, achieving AAT qualifications as an accounts technician, but while this gave him a focus it was not a career which appealed. Then in 2013, while at a summer fair, he spotted someone selling old-fashioned sweets to a queue of customers.
“I immediately thought, ‘I could do that’ and within a few weeks I was selling confection and gifts at local events. It was hard work for all of us but I wasn’t deterred and found new opportunities selling to residential homes, taking inspiration from the nostalgic appeal of old-fashioned sweets. It helped me find purpose again and my health and mobility benefitted.”
A birthday gift to Paul from his family of a chocolate making course was the next pivotal experience.
“I was hooked! I started to make chocolate bars and truffles, selling them alongside my other sweets and also into a couple of local shops. It was the great feedback we received about these new products which kick-started the idea to open a retail shop but the right location was the problem.”
Lynn had wanted a shop for many years but ideally they wanted to find premises to purchase outright, to avoid renting, which would combine both a business and home. Their search began in 2016 but it wasn’t until summer 2017 that Lynn found No. 12, High Street, Kirton in Lindsey. The 200-year-old property had been three homes at one time and a shop for many years, so had the kerbside frontage. It is in an excellent location and offers good-sized living accommodation. It had everything the family was looking for but was quite run down.
The Norths moved in on 17th December 2017 and with the help of family, friends and some excellent local tradespeople the now bright and welcoming shop opened in time for Easter in March 2018.
“Word quickly spread in the town about the business and people could see the transformation taking place,” said Paul. “The shop is directly opposite the Co-op and next to the chemist, so there is a high footfall and plenty of parking close by. We have kept a traditional feel to the colourways and decor of the shop, which we feel fits with the heritage of the location. On the first day we opened, a lady bought us a bouquet of flowers to congratulate us on bringing the property back into use. We have been so welcomed and supported in Kirton in Lindsey, which has meant so much to us.”
Although the shop also stocks cards and wrapping paper, hand crafted gifts and sweets ideal for birthdays, christenings and other special occasions, it is for his range of luxury truffles and Belgian chocolate bars that Paul is becoming best known. Indeed, last year his customers nominated No. 12 for the Lincolnshire Life Taste of Excellence Confectioner of the Year Award, for which he was a finalist.
Paul said: “One of the great pleasures I take from the job is the research I undertake and seeing customers enjoy a luxury product at an affordable price. I use Callebaut as my main chocolate supplier; it has a superior quality and flavour I always want to give by using a traditional, high quality couverture.
“I make all the chocolates on the premises and am almost entirely self-taught. I spend lots of time developing the flavours I use and I have a very instinctive belief in my own palate. Luckily our customers seem to share my taste and I trial different ideas on any willing taste testers in the shop. Our product is all about quality and customers know these are genuinely handmade on the premises, with outstanding flavours.”
The truffles are made in small batches using the highest quality ingredients. Amongst the bestsellers are Pin Gin and Tonic Truffles using the artisan made spirit from Louth and Fever Tree tonic and fresh limes followed by Kirsch Cherry cups, containing a whole, spirit soused fruit and white ganache. It was these and other distinctly original flavour combinations which impressed the Taste of Excellence judges.
“There are trends around healthy chocolate and new flavours such as matcha green tea and other botanical influences. I use fruit purees from lemons and passion fruit for example and they give exceptional contrasts to the smooth luxury of the chocolate.”
Sold loose or in boxes from the shop and online, demand for Paul and Lynn’s truffles has been high. Their first Easter in 2018, Christmas and Valentine’s Day have been hectic to keep up with orders. This Easter, they will be well prepared, with a range of hand dipped, decorated eggs; mottled with cocoa butter swirls or with a new airbrush effect which gives a velvet texture to the surface.
Paul added: “All our chocolates are gluten free, there are also dairy free products and ones suitable for diabetics. We can personalise products to order with names and for weddings. I am very excited about a new pink ‘ruby’ chocolate which Callebaut have developed. We produced a ruby heart range for Valentine’s Day which customers loved. This chocolate is made from the pink cocoa pods and has a unique depth of flavour and fruit.”
Going forward No. 12 are supplying boxes of truffles to a small group of local shops and online suppliers but the Kirton in Lindsey shop is the hub of the business. Paul is always keen to explore new aspects of his sweet passion and is kept busy hand-making more truffles on the three days a week he is not in the shop.
It has certainly been an exciting first year for Paul, Lynn and Stacey and their No. 12 enterprise. “We have been overwhelmed by the level of support from the people of Kirton in Lindsey and surrounding area who have made us feel so welcome. Without them we wouldn’t have survived, so we would like to thank each and every one of them.”
You can find out more about No. 12 Chocolatier at: www.no12chocolatier.co.uk