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News Feature

Isle au Haut
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, January 30, 2014
Black Dinah to move chocolate production to Portland
Will maintain test kitchen and business on Isle au Haut

Steve Shaffer of Black Dinah Chocolatiers

Steve Shaffer of Black Dinah Chocolatiers at their store in Blue Hill in 2012.

Penobscot Bay Press file photo

by Jessica Brophy

Black Dinah Chocolatiers is in the process of moving primary production of its handcrafted chocolates to the greater Portland area.

“We’ve known for a few years that we wanted to do this expansion,” said Steve Shaffer. “There have been difficulties getting the product off the island.” Shipping during bad weather is troublesome from the island, and since the product is perishable, that’s a concern.

The production of most chocolates will take place in the new Portland facility, while the Isle au Haut business—attached to the Shaffer home—will serve as a test kitchen for innovation and custom orders.

The Isle au Haut Café will remain open during the summer as well, though its menu may change. The business has recently lost several employees through turnover, and one employee will be moving to Portland along with the business. There won’t be any layoffs. The Blue Hill store will remain open as well, said Steve Shaffer.

The business, which Steve and Kate Shaffer founded in 2007, has grown. Early growth was fast, said Steve Shaffer. “Then we had to slow things down and figure it out.” The Shaffers are ready to grow Black Dinah Chocolatiers again.

Kate Shaffer has handcrafted the chocolates on Isle au Haut for eight years now, said Steve Shaffer. With so much effort put on keeping up with demand, there is little time to innovate and create new chocolate recipes and other treats.

When asked about scaling up production and maintaining the quality of the chocolates, Steve Shaffer said Kate is largely self-taught as a chocolatier and has developed “bulletproof” methods. “She’s confident she can teach others to do it to the company’s standard.”

The couple will both be taking on new roles as the company grows, said Steve Shaffer. “It’s important for us to expand and to keep making strides,” said Shaffer. The shift will allow the business to plan further out for holidays, new marketing ventures and creative innovation.

Steve Shaffer said he and Kate are committed to Isle au Haut. “We plan on still being here,” he said. “We want to keep giving back to the community.”