When Dustin Cornett left Beattyville in the early 2000s to attend Western Kentucky University, he thought he would never return. His journey took him as far away as Japan.
But home is where your heart is, and Cornett’s heart is in Beattyville.
Dustin and his wife, Mai, who he met and married while working in Japan, are the proud owners of the Chocolat Inn and Café in Beattyville, which opened in September.
“We have had an awesome start,” said Dustin, 34. “We have been welcomed by the community, and the word is getting out about the uniqueness of our Inn and Café.”
So, what is unique about the Chocolat Inn and Café?
It starts with the name. Dustin’s mother, Donna Cornett, who passed away in 2009 to cancer, was affectionately known as the Purple Lady around Beattyville. He named his chocolate company, Purple Lady Confections, in honor of his mother. Dustin’s grandmother, Rosemary Chandler, was an expert at making vanilla cream and butter cream recipes, and learned to make candy when she lived in West Virginia. He honors her with a rose in the logo.
“Cornett is French, and I have taken what I have learned from my mother and grandmother and incorporated that with my love for chocolate, and that was how the name Chocolat was formed,” said Dustin. “I wanted to do something to remember my mother and grandmother and their influence they had in my life.”
“Why not,”said Dustin.
It wasn’t exactly an easy road when Dustin and Mai returned from Japan in 2014. Their stay in Beattyville was supposed to be temporary.
“We actually thought we wanted to move out west where there were more opportunities and more of an Asian community,” recalled Dustin. “When Mai came to Beattyville, she fell in love with the place, and we wanted to make this our home.”
Dustin started making his chocolate, which he makes from the cocoa bean, in 2014 and selling it at festivals and other events. Like most aspiring entrepreneurs, he didn’t know exactly how to turn his passion into a thriving business.
Opportunity knocked, and Dustin and Mai answered later that year when a local building owner allowed them to start a co-op in a building they called the Art Factory. Dustin and Mai renovated the building and were able to operate the building rent free for three years.
“The building was much more than we needed for our coffee shop and café,so we adopted a co-op model,” said Dustin. “This allowed us to reach out to other aspiring entrepreneurs. We had a tattoo artist, an artist and photographer, and a person that did audio recordings. It suddenly became a thriving part downtown, and it opened the door for those who had ideas to turn them into a reality.”