Bixby & Co., the Rockland-based chocolate maker, is set to open an artisan chocolate café and store this spring on Main Street in downtown Waterville, but the company is looking to bring more than sweets to town.

It also seeks to provide vision, a commitment to Maine entrepreneurship and a desire to grow in a thriving setting.

The café will be located in the Colby College-owned Hains Building at 173 Main St., which was built in 1903 and once housed Waterville Savings Bank.

Kate McAleer, 32, founder and CEO of Bixby & Co., attributed her business “vision” to a personal experience.

“When I was a college freshman, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer,” McAleer said in an interview Monday at the future Bixby & Co. café. “That made me look into the food system and what was going into it. That turned me on to organic foods.

“I also thought about how I could take my many interests and apply them somewhere, and chocolate was the medium where all of my interests could come together. I noticed a void of organic chocolate in the industry so my idea was to bring natural and clean chocolate to the market.”


In recent years, her leadership has brought the company a Tory Burch Foundation fellowship; first place in the Gorham Savings Bank LaunchPad startup contest; and she was named Maine’s 2015 Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Small Business Administration.

McAleer founded Bixby & Co. in December 2011 with the mission of creating organic and natural chocolate with the least amount of environmental impact.

The first and only “bean to bar” chocolate company in Maine, Bixby & Co. is certified organic by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

Bixby buys its beans from farmers in Belize, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Haiti, and processes them into chocolate products at its facility in Rockland.

“There is no chocolate grown in the state of Maine,” McAleer said. “Trust me. I’ve tried. Bixby is all conscience driven so we have a close relationship from the farmers that we buy from. I try to go every two years to personally visit each of our farmers, and that’s been a really meaningful experience for me.”

McAleer said she set her sights on Waterville after meeting with Garvan Donegan, director of planning and economic development at the Central Maine Growth Council.


“I’m tied into a lot of entrepreneurship here in Maine, and I was introduced to Waterville and Colby College by Garvan,” McAleer said. “I learned there’s so much going on here in Waterville.”

Brian Clark, Colby’s vice president of planning who oversees all of the college’s downtown development projects, said he was immediately impressed with the owners of Bixby & Co. when he met them in August.

“We were impressed with their vision, the quality of their products and just how they’ve managed to grow,” Clark said. “It’s a company based in Maine that has national distribution, and they’ve been able to develop it from the ground up.”

The collaboration between Bixby & Co. and Colby College continues the revitalization of Waterville’s downtown, according to college officials. It is another of the initiatives aimed at revitalizing Main Street, including the Alfond Commons, a residence hall that houses about 200 students; the Lockwood Hotel, a 53-room boutique inn scheduled to open in fall 2020; and the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, which is in the planning stages.

In 2017, Colby renovated the building at 173 Main St. It is now home to Portland Pie Co., the technology firm CGI Group and some Colby offices. With the opening of Bixby & Co., the building will be fully occupied for the first time in more than 25 years.

The operation will include seating areas for customers to enjoy Bixby’s chocolate confections, including drinking chocolate, pastries, espresso, gelato, a display of fine candies inside the building’s original bank vault and an interactive display that showcases how Bixby sources its chocolate and creates its products.


Bixby products will be available for purchase along with frozen desserts from Gelato Fiasco of Brunswick and Portland. Coffee By Design of Portland will be the designated roaster, highlighting the importance of other Maine-based businesses to Bixby’s operations, McAleer said.

Molly Shelly — 207-861-9256

Twitter: @mollyshellyyy

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