Monday, March 10, 2014
Kate Shaffer, the chocolatier behind Black Dinah chocolates, worked out of her home kitchen on Isle au Haut during the early years of establishing her business.
When it got to the point that she was producing 150,000 truffles a year out of that home kitchen, she and her husband, Steve, decided it was time to build a commercial kitchen on their island property.
Now, it's time to grow again.
"When we built the commercial kitchen, we wanted to bring it into capacity and also get an idea of production, so it has been functioning as a test lab in that respect," Steve Shaffer said in a recent interview. "At this point, we feel like we're ready to expand."
The couple is actively searching for production space in Portland, and plan to hire about 10 people - all hopefully within the next six months.
"We want to move quickly," Schaffer said. "We started marketing and so forth, and we've definitely seen an uptick in production and demand, and so we want to keep meeting that and moving forward."
Everything else about the company will more or less remain the same. Its island kitchen will fulfill custom orders and be used for product development. The Black Dinah cafe on Isle au Haut will re-open this summer to feed visitors truffles and tea. The company's Blue Hill store will be expanded to include a tasting room.
At this point, the Portland expansion does not include a retail store. (Black Dinah chocolates are already sold in Portland at LeRoux Kitchen and Browne Trading Co., both located on Commercial Street.)
"It would just be too much to do all at once," Shaffer said. "The first thing is maintain quality and get production up, and start getting our name more out there."
Shaffer said this strategy will place production in an area where they'll have more access to resources, and will also allow his wife to focus on what she does best - focusing on innovation and new ideas for chocolates.
The couple have no plans to move south, however.
"We like it here," Shaffer said of their island home.
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.