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Choxit: the East End's last chocolate shop set to close

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Steven ter Horst, the last remaining chocolatier on Rundle Street, will follow Cocolat, Max Brenner and San Churro out the East End’s proverbial door, InDaily can reveal.

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Steven ter Horst told InDaily his lease on Rundle Street had ended – although he would keep selling his locally made, high-end chocolate products there until his landlord finds a new tenant and he finds a new shop and kitchen somewhere in Adelaide’s suburbs.

The Adelaide chocolatier said it had become unsustainable to maintain a stand-alone shop in Rundle Street with a kitchen in Arndale.

He adopted the split model when he moved the business from Unley four years ago, at a time when Rundle Street looked like it was “on the up-and-up”.

“As Rundle Street started to quiet off and the hospital left, it (the shop) wasn’t generating enough revenue,” he told InDaily this morning.

“We thought that separating the shop and the kitchen was a good idea … in hindsight it wasn’t. Double rent, double bins, double insurance … we’re sort of cruising by on the skin of our teeth.”

He said that trading in Rundle Street had also become a struggle because of disruption from now completed infrastructure and roadworks nearby – the North Terrace tramline, the O-Bahn tunnel and the redevelopment of Frome Street bikeway.

The closure of the old Royal Adelaide Hospital had also sent thousands of prospective customers to the new RAH, at the city’s northwestern corner.

Ter Horst said he had also come to the realisation that it was important for his brand that customers see him making the chocolate – something that wasn’t possible in the small Rundle Street shop.

“We used to have that in Unley, and customers really liked that,” he said.

He said he was looking for a new location that combines the kitchen and the shop, “probably back in the suburbs”, but that he would stick around until his landlord finds a new tenant.

“We’ve got an excellent landlord, who’s been really considerate with the rent,” said ter Horst.

“We’ll keep going at Rundle Street until the landlord finds (a new tenant) … he’s been good to us, so I want to be good to him.

“There’s a good chance we’ll still be in the shop at Fringe.”

Ter Horst offered an insight into his business last month, when he spoke to InDaily about the liquidation of fellow Rundle Street chocolatier San Churro.

The Spanish dessert café franchise had been unable to trade through to the lucrative Adelaide Fringe season, and followed Adelaide Hills chocolate maker Cocolat and Israeli franchise Max Brenner (the latter being the result of an Australia-wide collapse) in closing its Rundle Street doors.

Ter Horst said at the time that “as long as people support us we’ll … hopefully keep making the products that they want to consume”.

“We’ve got a pretty loyal customer base … we aren’t looking to close up any time soon.”

But ter Horst told InDaily this morning that he had heard rumours San Churro was likely to re-open. Liquidator Andre Strazdins told InDaily last month that the San Churro company may take over the franchise and re-open it – but that has yet to be confirmed.

The East End’s proponents are looking beyond the dip in the chocolate market though, instead pointing to a flurry of bar and restaurant openings, including more to come imminently, and highlighting the first signs of a positive impact from the tram extension.

Maras Group CEO Steve Maras told InDaily exciting things were happening in the East End, with a series of hospitality venues opening  in the past 12 months, and more soon to open.

On Rundle Street, these included Greek restaurant Petrichor – which had replaced Cocolat – donut franchise Krispy Kreme, Hellbound wine bar, renowned Australian chef Jock Zonfrillo’s new restaurant Mallozzi, Betty’s Burgers – due to open this weekend – and the Stag Public House (the latter has, though, reopened under new management repeatedly in recent years).

On immediately parallel Vardon Avenue and Ebenezer Place, Delicia Açai protein bar, Laneway Espresso House, Epicure Kitchen, El Cheeky Flamingo bar and Charlick’s Restaurant are also recent openings.

Maras also mentioned Jekyll & Hyde in Union Place and Caffiend Coffee Company in Synagogue Place.

Frank Hannon-Tan, deputy president of the East End Coordination Group, which represents traders and residents in the area, told InDaily the precinct was at the low end of a longer-term business cycle but he was confident in its future.

Hannon-Tan said he had first worked in the East End in the early 1990s, a decade before he opened Amalfi Pizzeria Ristorante, located on Frome Street (which intersects Rundle Street).

“Rundle Street has gone through peaks and troughs,” he said.

“I just see this as a bit of a trough. It’s very difficult out there.”

But Hannon-Tan, who also owns Vardon Avenue wine bar Mothervine, said the East End had enduring appeal for both customers and retail and hospitality tenants.

“I like this area … people want to be in this part of town,” he said.

“I think there’s a lot of life in it.

“I’m pretty confident that it’ll get better.”

He said some of his former regular customers who had worked at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital before moving to the new hospital had started returning to the restaurant because the new North Terrace tram had made it easily accessible.

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