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A Risk and Hard Work Lead to Sweet Success



Left to right, co-owner Nancy Rangel, Ally Fowler, manager and co-owner Diana Hsieh.

What started out as a search for a part-time job turned into Peachtree Corners resident Diana Hsieh becoming the co-owner of The Chocolaterie at just 27 years old.

The Chocolaterie is an artisan chocolate shop located in the oldest remaining building on Main Street in Historic Downtown Duluth. It has a beautiful assortment of luxury chocolates, gourmet ice cream, handmade fudge and unique gifts.

Humble beginnings

Diana was just two years old when her parents moved to Atlanta from Vietnam. When her family arrived, they moved into a one-bedroom apartment across from Turner Field and her father worked two jobs to support them.

“Growing up, I fell into the trap of the Asian stereotype and believed that in order to be successful in my parent’s eyes, I had to become a doctor, lawyer or engineer,” she said. Her parents fought to make it to America and worked extremely hard to raise her and her brothers. She didn’t want to disappoint them.

Over time, she realized that her parents didn’t have those expectations at all. They just wanted her to be happy and successful.

Finding her way

In 2015, Diana graduated from the University of Georgia, where she majored in Public Health and Sociology. “The plan after college was to get my Master’s in Public Health and go into disaster management,” she said. “I was frustrated with not finding a job in my field since the positions I was interested in required years of experience.”

Because of this, Diana had to move back home with her parents. “I was pretty disappointed with myself,” she explained. “I really thought that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I watched all my friends moving on with their lives and I thought that I should be doing that too. But instead, I felt like I was going backwards. I felt as if, at that point in my life, I should be done with having my parents help support me. I wanted to be out on my own and not depending on someone.”

Over the next couple of years, Diana bounced around to more jobs, got married and she and her husband Calvin bought their first home in Peachtree Corners.

“We kind of stumbled upon the home and knew it was more than what we could afford and bigger than what we were looking for at the time, but it was a great deal,” she said. To help them, Diana’s parents gave them money for their down payment and Calvin’s parents matched the gift.

Pathway to destiny

Once settled into her home, Diana began looking for another part-time job since she had just enrolled in Kennesaw State University to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science. She saw a post on Facebook that The Chocolaterie was hiring.

“I applied and got the job. Right when I was hired, the owners, Mike and Elizabeth Ashworth, made it clear that they were looking for someone to take over the store.”

Diana saw people coming often to meet with the owners, but they were never a good fit. “Everyone was interested in the store for its prominent location,” she recounted. “However, they didn’t want to keep the chocolate business.”

One day, when Diana and Elizabeth were working in the store together, Diana said, “Elizabeth casually asked me what I thought about buying the store. I was surprised by the question, but told Elizabeth I would give it some thought.”

Over the next month, Diana thought hard about the opportunity. After going back and forth with the idea and trying to convince herself that she could take on this challenge, Diana’s brother told her, “It sounds like you already made your decision, I don’t know why you’re doubting yourself.” That’s when Diana finally decided that she was ready.

The time is now

After Diana made the decision that she wanted to be the next owner of The Chocolaterie, she approached the store’s manager, Nancy Rangel, about partnering with her on the opportunity. “I was super nervous bringing it up to her,” Diana said. “I knew there was a chance that she wouldn’t go in on this with me, which is fair because I was asking her to make a big commitment.”

The owners stand in front of a custom mural of some of their great chocolates (pictured below mural)

Nancy told Diana she would think about it and get back to her. “That took a couple weeks, but once she got everything in order, we had lunch at Fox Brothers where she told me she’d love to do this with me.”

Diana and Nancy went back to Mike and Elizabeth to let them know they wanted to buy The Chocolaterie, and their parents helped them with the capital to purchase the store.

“From there, we really hit the ground running,” stated Diana. “We had lunch in March and by April, we were incorporated and got all of our licenses in order. By the end of June, we were finalizing everything and took over the store on July 1, 2018.”

Never give up

After a little over a year of getting up to speed on the business and finally getting in their groove, COVID-19 hit and forced Diana and Nancy to temporarily close the store for in-store shopping for almost four months.

“It was so stressful,” said Diana. “Everything happened so fast during the shutdown there was almost no time to think; it was just do.”

Diana was worried about how they were going to continue paying their staff because they didn’t want to lay anyone off. “We continued to have them at the store taking the phone in and online orders while Nancy and I worked on getting a PPP loan and figuring out how we could convert the store to allow for in store shopping again,” she said. “Shutting down the store was just not an option. It never crossed my mind during the shutdown that we weren’t going make it through this somehow. The store was my livelihood, Nancy’s livelihood. I just knew I didn’t want to fall back on depending on someone to take care of me again.”

Now, Diana can’t help but reflect on the challenges she endured to get her to where she is. When asked about her decision to buy the store, Diana said, “It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I learned so much in the short time that I’ve had this store. I obviously learned a lot about the business side of things and how to manage and operate a business. But I also learned a lot about myself. About how much I could achieve once I got over the idea of doing things because I thought it was expected of me, to doing things that I wanted,” she said.

“To this day, I still think I’m crazy for buying the store but I’m forever grateful that Mike and Elizabeth, my parents and Nancy believed in me.”

Diana finding her own path and purchasing the store changed her relationship with her parents. “It brought a deeper understanding of what they wanted for me all along,” she said. “To be happy and successful no matter what it was that brought that success.”

Coned ice cream

After the initial experience of being frustrated and unsure of her career trajectory, purchasing The Chocolaterie gave Diana the confidence boost she needed. “I feel that the business is going to be just fine. I feel like, after dealing with COVID, I can handle anything that comes my way.”

Rena Williams is a brand image consultant with a BS in Marketing from Hampton University and an Executive MBA from Kennesaw State University. Rena enjoys traveling, working out and spending time with her husband and two daughters.

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VyStar Credit Union Continues Growth in Georgia with the Opening of a Peachtree Corners Branch



A grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for May 29, 2024

VyStar Credit Union has to announced that its Peachtree Corners location is now open at 5125 Peachtree Parkway in Peachtree Corners. This is VyStar’s fifth full-service branch in Metro Atlanta and joins branches in Stockbridge, Suwanee, Smyrna and Marietta.

In support of its purpose to “Do Good,” VyStar partners with non-profit organizations across the communities it serves. VyStar will make a $5,000 donation to the Rainbow Village to celebrate the grand opening of the Peachtree Corners branch at the ribbon cutting event in late May.

“VyStar’s first branch in Gwinnett will provide residents and business owners with better banking options, including free checking, access to early direct deposit, great rates, financial wellness education through VyStar’s Financial Fitness initiative, and unbelievable member-centric service that only a credit union can provide,” said VyStar EVP/Chief Operations Officer Chad Meadows.

The Peachtree Corners branch features VyStar’s digital-forward design, which enhances how employees connect with members. This includes interactive touchscreen kiosks that provide financial tools and allow members to quickly explore the latest products, services and rates. 

Lobby and drive-thru hours for the Peachtree Corners branch are Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

VyStar continues to work with local organizations to build up the communities it serves. In Metro Atlanta, that includes supporting the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Junior Achievement of Georgia, Frontline Housing Inc., H.E.R.O. For Children and many others.

“Each time VyStar opens a new branch, it is another opportunity for us to support our purpose to Do Good. With eight full-service branches now in Georgia and our first Contact Center in Metro Atlanta, VyStar is able to provide residents and area businesses with exceptional financial products along with personalized service,” said VyStar SVP/Georgia Market President Janean Armstrong.

VyStar has seven additional locations in Georgia: Marietta, Smyrna, Suwanee, Stockbridge, Brunswick, Savannah and Thomasville, with plans to open branches in Pooler, Kingsland and Peachtree City over the next year.

The credit union is also expanding its services in Florida with a third branch in Tallahassee scheduled to open in May followed by a branch opening in the Lake Nona area in August.

To celebrate the grand opening, the community is invited to a ribbon cutting ceremony on May 29, 2024, at 10:30 a.m. Learn more about the Peachtree Corners branch.

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Kendra Scott Opens New Store At The Forum



Kendra Scott

Kendra Scott is celebrating the opening of its newest store in Peachtree Corners the weekend of May 10 at The Forum.

Upon opening, the 2,263 square foot store will display Kendra Scott’s current collections. The store will also showcase the brand’s unique Color Bar, offering shoppers an interactive experience to create customized jewelry in minutes and leave with it in hand.

Worn by celebrities including Hailey Bieber, Camila Cabello, Mindy Kaling, Zendaya and Kelly Clarkson, Kendra Scott’s collections are known for their custom-created stone shapes, genuine materials and design details.

This will be Kendra Scott’s first store in Gwinnett County, which joins five other retail locations in Georgia.

The brand will continue to show its support for the community through partnerships with non-profits and local businesses. For the grand opening weekend, Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners will host various non-profits for Kendra Gives Back events, donating a percentage of proceeds directly back to the causes.

Kendra Scott hosts more than 10,000 Kendra Gives Back events in retail stores annually and looks forward to establishing relationships and connecting with the Gwinnett County community.

“We’re excited to continue introducing the community to new brands, bites and events at The Forum as part of our vision to create downtown Peachtree Corners. Kendra Scott will be a welcome addition, providing our guests a top-notch experience to shop its unique offerings in person,” said Charlotte Hinton, The Forum marketing manager.

Doors will open on Friday, May 10, at 10 a.m. with celebrations throughout the weekend, including giveback events, gifts with purchase and giveaways. RSVP for more details here.

Upcoming events:

  • Friday, May 10 from 10-12 p.m. – Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is partnering with The Forum for a VIP event. Supporters who spend $100 will receive a special jewelry gift with purchase.* Guests will also enjoy refreshments from Giulia, The Italian Bakery.
  • Friday, May 10 from 5-7 p.m. – Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is partnering with the Norcross High School Cheer Team and donating 20% of proceeds. Supporters who spend $100 will receive a special gift with purchase* Guests can also receive a custom embroidered bow from Quiet Hours Embroidery with purchase.
  • Saturday, May 11 from 4-6 p.m. – Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is partnering with Spectrum Autism Support Group and donating 20% of proceeds. Supporters who spend $100 will receive a special gift with purchase.* Guests will also enjoy complimentary cotton candy from Wonder Soirée with every purchase.
  • Sunday, May 12 from 12-2 p.m. – Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is celebrating the Community of Motherhood. Supporters who spend $100 will receive a special gift with purchase.* Guests will also receive a complimentary Mother’s Day bouquet of flowers from Nancy’s Flower Truck.

*One per person while supplies last.

Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is located at 5155 Peachtree Parkway, Suite 710 in Peachtree Corners at The Forum. For companywide updates and product details, follow @kendrascott on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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BRACK: Peachtree Corners to lose Peterbrooke Chocolatier



Scottt Gottuso and Geoffrey Wilson.
Scottt Gottuso and Geoffrey Wilson. Photo provided.

Peachtree Corners will soon lose one of its most iconic, popular and tasty businesses.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier, run by Geoffrey Wilson and Scott Gottuso, has been told by Peachtree Forum landlords, North American Properties and Nuveen Real Estate, that its lease will not be renewed. The last day of business will be July 25.

Meanwhile, Peachtree Forum is getting several new stores. They include Kendra Scott, Sucre, and The NOW Massage. Previously announced were Alloy Personal Training, Cookie Fix, Gallery Anderson Smith, Giulia, Lovesac, Nando’s Peri-Peri and Stretchlab. Wilson adds: “We are not in their big picture.”

Wilson has operated Peterbrooke at the Peachtree Forum for 14 years and Gottuso has been there nine years. They have made the chocolatier profitable and doubled sales. Wilson says: “We turned it around through community involvement and made relationships. We worked with the schools, gave donations, did a lot in the community, and made a difference. We produce most everything we sell in the shop, so it’s labor intensive. We make European-style chocolate treats from scratch from the very best ingredients, package it, make gift baskets, and also sell a lot of gelato.”

Key items include truffles, hand-made caramels, cherry cordials, chocolate-covered cookies and pretzels and strawberries hand-dipped in their own blend of chocolates. (They are all good!) One of Wilson’s and Gottuso’s most iconic products is chocolate popcorn. Once you try it, regular popcorn is tasteless. “We sell a lot of it.” Wilson adds: “Gelato sales have carried us in the summertime, since there are not many chocolate holidays in the summer.”

Peterbrooke now has five employees, and would like to have 10, but it is difficult to hire people with the skills in chocolatiering. A key part of its business is corporate companies, such as Delta Air Lines and Capital Insight. The Peachtree Corners’ Peterbrooke has corporate customers as far away as Cleveland, Ohio.

The operators were surprised when the Forum owners did not renew its five year lease. “The big decisions were made in Charlotte or Cincinnati, not locally,” Wilson feels. “We were no longer in their big picture. They want new and glitzy, shiny, fancy and trendy.”

The operators plan to start their own chocolate company, to be called “Scoffrey,” and initially sell online, plus have pop-up locations during holidays, and possibly have a booth in other merchants’ stores on occasions.

“Whatever we do would look different. We might rent a space somewhere close by so that people can still have the good chocolate experience with us, but we won’t have a regular audience walking by.”

Another element: the price of chocolate futures has spiked this year, with a bad crop production year. Wilson says: “That is key to our business and a huge cost increase. That doesn’t help.”

Wilson adds that the forced closing of the Peterbrooke location “is something like the death of a friend. But you go to the funeral and to the wake, and in six months or a year, It won’t be so bad.”

Have a comment?  Send to: elliott@elliottbrack

Written by Elliott Brack

This material is presented with permission from Elliott Brack’s GwinnettForum, an online site published Tuesdays and Fridays. To become better informed about Gwinnett, subscribe (at no cost) at GwinnettForum

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