Katerina Lee stands up, rushing eagerly to assist at the counter, not immediately recognising the woman as a regular customer.
Unexpectedly, Ms Lee’s customer produces a painting, showing a pond surrounded by trees, and hands it over.
The customer’s gift is for Ms Lee’s husband Tommy Lee, knowing his background in Pohang, South Korea.
“It’s a gesture that speaks volumes about her understanding of his connection to the piece and its cultural origins,” Ms Lee says. “She has been coming here since the beginning.”
Ms Lee strives to create a joyful and healthy community by making people’s tastebuds happy with chocolate.
Before her life in the Sunshine Chocolatier shop, Ms Lee studied Catholic Theology at Charles University in Prague.
She wanted to learn about the church’s history, culture and the foundations of its beliefs and values. She put her studies to use in her job as a journalist on Radio Proglas: a small Christian radio station in Brno, Czech Republic. The radio station was her life until December 2015.
“There was lots of pressure in my previous life,” she says.
Ms Lee was in desperate need of a change.
She first began her travels to Australia with a goal to learn English and find a job in an English-speaking radio station.
She even travelled to San Francisco in the US to attend a three-month intense language course.
The many expeditions Ms Lee took to learn English, however, made her increasingly fond of travelling.
“I went to America. I went around Europe,” she says.
Ms Lee met her now husband during her first week of travelling in Australia.
Together, they moved to Prague, Ms Lee’s hometown.
While living there, Mr Lee studied accounting and was employed in the food industry, working with foods such as chocolate. They had a son, Daniel and the couple made the decision to move to Australia in April 2018 because of its openness to diverse backgrounds and wide use of the English language.
“The primary reason for moving back was to create an environment where Daniel’s growth wasn’t dominated solely by my or Tommy’s culture,” Ms Lee says.
The couple’s business ideas started small: they began selling chocolate in Eumundi, Caloundra and Noosa markets in December 2018, and they opened their shop 10 months later.
The business gave Ms Lee much more freedom to create her new, easier and less-stressful life. Her old life as a journalist is a memory now and the change has invigorated her.
“There is pressure in business, but we work as a family, can make decisions easier and just be ourselves,” she says.
It was also an opportunity for Ms Lee to interact and connect with her customers.
“I love my customers so much. From my busy, crazy life of radio broadcast journalism, just the small talk … it’s fulfilling me much more.”
Shelby Meek is a student at the University of the Sunshine Coast.