"Hand-made fayre is a family affair"
What common bond unites Prince Charles, the wife of a visiting Arab Ambassador, and the irrepressible Pat Lally, leader of Glasgow City Council?
What they all share is a great love for macaroons, but it must be the hand-made macaroons produced by Threepwood Fayre. And they're just as keen to guzzle the coconut tablet, the chocolate fudge, the rum truffles and the whisky tablet, all of them made by hand by Anne Dobbie, the company's founding owner.
Threepwood Fayre was established five years ago by Anne and her husband John. It operates from a timber-clad cabin high in a fold of the hills of North Ayrshire, set up close beside the farmhouse family home.
And it was family priorities, and fundamental re-evaluation which came with starting a family, which caused Anne to consider setting the business in motion.
She had qualified with a degree in Hotel and Catering Management from Ross Hall, and until the birth of her first child, had worked for 12 years in industry as catering manageress for British Alcan in Glasgow. Anne knew that her commitment to her family would prevent her from returning to full-time employment; but she knew as well that the family needed a second income. And finally, and most important she also knew that she was very good at making sweets.
Every year at Christmas time she used to make chocolates and sweets which the employees at Alcan could buy at the canteen. These had sold well, and so the idea of developing a wider range of sweets and making a business out of her skill seemed an obvious option.
From first inception of the idea to final production and sale of the little cellophane and ribbon tied bags of hand-made Scottish sweets took a year. This delay was not caused by any lack of enthusiasm or commitment.
It was rather, the consequence of the Dobbie's determination to establish a business which had the lowest of overheads, could be personally controlled by the two of them, and which would have the highest production standards.
The first hurdle to be overcome was that of obtaining planning permission to build a separate kitchen for the making of the sweets. The Dobbie's had to convince the planning authorities that their rustically camouflaged cabin was no threat to the country environment.
Meanwhile Anne was developing her recipes and searching for suitable packaging. She was also scouring the country for suppliers who would be willing to sell in the tiny quantities which were wanted initially. The couple were both involved also in the designing and printing their emblem and labels, writing their publicity material and doing their market research.
They were determined to do everything themselves in order to keep their costs to a minimum. And they have nothing but praise for the assistance, both financial and practical, given to them by Ayrshire Enterprise.
Now five years on, Threepwood Fayre is firmly established as a supplier of a dozen different kinds of high quality hand-made sweets and petit fours. And it's customers range from the Kelvin Hall, when it was the venue for the World badminton championships and 3000 people were passing through, to small tourist shops in holiday resorts all over the country.
From large international functions at the Glasgow City Chambers, where the district council is keen to fly the flag for good local products with a distinctive Scottish flavour, to the local garage where the man buying petrol also wants to buy something for his wife.
What these customers all liked says Dobbie, was the fact that they were buying something distinctly Scottish, something hand-made and something special - half way between a confection and a gift.
And it is at this stage that another ingredient of Threepwood Fayre's sweet success becomes evident - the Dobbie's are providing a service second to none.
Anne has been known to work through the night so as not to disappoint customers; and at Christmas last year, she even worked for 48 hours without a break - boiling, mixing, dipping the sweets in nuts or chocolate or coconut, filling the baskets and boxes all to keep pace with her customers demands.
Working those sort of hours, little wonder, she says that her television is the most vital piece of kitchen equipment in her cabin.
(Janet Reid, Glasgow Herald 1994)