AS Easter approaches, staff at Castle Chocolates, at Carlyle’s Court, Fisher Street, in Carlisle, are working overtime to meet demand.

It’s a good problem, but owner Keith Tattersall is exhausted.

“Throughout these busy times there’s many, many a late night working through till two or three in the morning,” he said. “We’re making eggs, Easter bars with crème eggs and mini eggs on top.

"We do rabbits, we do giant eggs up to five kilos, we do painted eggs with different colours and inclusion eggs with bits of honeycomb on the front, so there’s lots going on.”

At a rough estimate, the shop will make 2,000 eggs and 1,000 bars over the Easter period - up from previous years.

“We’re doing well,” said Keith. “We’re up 20 per cent on last year’s figures. We’ve got external shops to supply this year that we didn’t have last year, which probably takes up half of our time.”

The shop opened in 2019 at what Keith describes as “the worst time possible for a business”.

“We opened four months before Covid so we didn’t have that natural expansion that we would have,” he said. “Now we’re really starting to hit our stride, possibly moving to a new location if everything works out.”

But there are no plans for further shops. “You get more than one shop and business rates start becoming an issue,” said Keith. “It’s just expanding what we’ve already got and carrying on with the external sales.”

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As its reputation has grown, Castle Chocolates has accrued such high-profile clients as fine dining restaurant Lounge on the Green and Cranstons, which is now its biggest.

“Then there’s a new shop in Cockermouth called Choc of the North and we supply to them as well,” said Keith. “We spend an awful lot of time on trials and testing to make sure the products are as good as they can be before they go on sale.”

A new menu card comes out each July and of the 50 chocolates on it, between five and eight will be different “just to keep things fresh”.

While Keith looks after the business side, he relies on chocolatier Michael Lancaster for production and, before Christmas, took on Meg Robinson part time for extra help.

The shop is very much part of the community, frequently supporting local charities. “If anyone comes to us, generally, I’ll donate,” said Keith. “Your supermarkets and your bigger chains aren’t going to offer that service.

“A business shouldn’t be open for my good as the owner or for the employees’ good, it should benefit the whole community. The only way the high street is going to continue is with the independents.

"There’s always going to be a place where people want to meet and that will be the centre of town. It’s just changing what they’re coming in for now. Even down to the social aspect of being in the shop. We have a lot of elderly people coming in and we make sure it’s a positive experience.”