CHILLI jam and green tea jostle for position on the deli shelves, ladies lunch in the bright café, chatting over chicken and avocado sandwiches and a cheeky glass of fizz.
Sweet treats fill every little space, the scent of coffee is in the air, and at the heart of it all is The Cabinet, a sparkling glass case chock-full of chocolates.
They are mesmerising, arranged with military precision in eyecatching rows, surrounded by ballotins, bags and bows. The names alone will have you reaching for your wallet. Raspberry caramel ganache. White strawberry creme fraiche. Milk chocolate gianduja (that’s sweet hazelnut and chocolate paste , don’t you know).
These chocolates are the reason most people come to Kimble’s, the cheerful café, deli and shop in the upper mall of the St Enoch Centre, overlooking the square below.
“Some of our customers have been coming to us for 16 years,” smiles owner Joyce Kimble. “For them, buying Kimble’s chocolates at Christmas, or for Valentine’s Day, is a family tradition. That’s really lovely for us, to know we’re part of something a little bit special.”
Joyce and her husband John opened their first chocolate shop in 2012. Both had studied catering and hotel management, both had strong business backgrounds – Joyce worked as a supervisor for Edinburgh Woollen Mills, John in management at House of Fraser and Bradford’s – and both understood the importance of having a good work ethic.
“John’s dad ran his own business, and I’m a farmer’s daughter, so I knew all about hard work,” smiles Joyce.
“Although we didn’t realise, perhaps, just how much hard work would be involved in running our own shop. For the first four years, we only had two days off – Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. We took holidays separately. It was just the two of us, doing everything. But it was fantastic, after so many years of talking about it, to finally have done it – that feeling of standing behind the counter on opening day, welcoming customers for the first time was amazing.”
In fact, Joyce missed the opening day, to her great frustration.
“We had a tiny shop unit in the St Enoch Centre – it was part of the centre’s plan, to encourage small businesses to open inside a large mall, and it was perfect for us,” she recalls. “We’d done all the preparation work ourselves, painting and building, up against a tight schedule to get open in time for Christmas.
“And then, three weeks before opening day, I fell out of the attic and broke my shoulder, a couple of ribs, and punctured a lung.”
She rolls her eyes. “I was in hospital for five days and out of action for weeks,” she sighs. “John had to pull in friends and family – even his fishing club pals were in tying ribbons for the boxes.”
Joyce maintained control from afar, however.
“I’m the designer, the creative one,” she says. “Every night, John would bring home photos of the shop to show me how it was going.
“I was back on my feet and in the shop, arm in a sling, by the end of January. I’m quite a determined person.”
At school in Peebles, Joyce was always the one “organising things”, she says.
“I remember when I was 11, raising money so we could go on a school trip,” she says. “I organised a jumble sale, rented the hall – I was determined, even then.”
If her work ethic comes from her father, Joyce’s love of baking is definitely down to her mother.
“I used to watch her bake, she taught me lots,” says Joyce. “When I was 15, I’d pay her for the ingredients and make a batch of cakes which a shop on Peebles main street would sell for me.
“You couldn’t do that now! Health and safety wouldn’t allow it.”
After briefly considering becoming a home economics teacher, Joyce spent a summer working in a hotel in the Borders.
“I loved it,” she laughs. “It was amazing – I did everything, waited tables, cleaned toilets. I realised it was what I wanted to do, so I went to college in Edinburgh to study catering and hotel management.”
After a spell working in London, Joyce returned to Edinburgh, where she met John. The couple, who live in Clarkston, have a daughter, Jennifer and son Christopher, who were teenagers when their parents decided to go for it and open their own chocolate shop.
“We trained ourselves really, used contacts and spoke to suppliers, and got samples sent to us,” explains Joyce. “We have learned along the way.
“The St Enoch Centre has been really supportive – it’s a great location for us and we have never wanted to move away. Glasgow is a fantastic city, and it’s our home.”
Joyce and John are big supporters of the Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year award, which this year takes place on March 14.
Every year, they host an informal welcome party before the main event, allowing the finalists to meet up and get to know each other before the big night.
“We are delighted to be part of SWOTY and really love hosting the party,” smiles Joyce. “It’s lovely to see how proud their friends and families are of these women, who don’t seem to realise how much they have achieved, or how important they are.
“I think that’s what I admire most about all of the SWOTY finalists – they don’t have to do what they do, but they just get on with it and make a difference.”
The 2018 Evening Times SWOTY finalists will be announced soon. The winner will be crowned on March 14.