Penboscot Bay Press Compass Logo

Penobscot Bay Press
Community Information Services

News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, March 7, 2019
Black Dinah closes Blue Hill tasting room

Empty cases

Black Dinah Chocolatiers closed its Blue Hill Tasting Room, located inside Fairwinds Florist on Main Street, Blue Hill, on February 28.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

A popular spot for locals and visitors to downtown Blue Hill, Black Dinah Chocolatiers closed its tasting room with little notice Thursday, February 28. The business, located inside Fairwinds Florist, sold high-end chocolates and other sweets, along with coffee, espresso drinks and Pugnuts Ice cream. Fairwinds owner Cullen Schneider served as manager.

“I was shocked,” she said. “I got a call at 8:45 on Tuesday morning. They closed for good on Thursday at 5 p.m.”

Kate and Steve Shaffer, who launched Black Dinah’s on Isle au Haut in 2007 and opened the Blue Hill tasting room in 2012, moved their base to Westbrook in 2015.

“As business owners, we’re always hopeful,” Kate Shaffer said from their Westbrook store March 5. “The Blue Hill tasting room offered a lot of things like coffee, ice cream. Those were extra bonuses. What really drives our [business] is chocolate because that’s what we do.”

Shaffer said that chocolate sales “swing from holiday to holiday” and after Valentine’s day, she and Steve considered whether the business could sustain itself until Easter.

“I think we gave a share of our business to the other new businesses that opened [downtown] last spring,” Shaffer said. “People have to split their dollars between lots of other things. It became a little unsustainable, as far as a slight loss in sales as well as us being so far away in Portland and having an up-tick in business on this end.”

That combination of factors led to their decision, she said, with the short notice to their employees “obviously is not an ideal situation. We’re employees of our business, too, and it is a real, real hardship to close a business in the middle of the winter, both for the employees and the business.”

Schneider said the long counter, originally in the old Partridge Drug Store, will remain “as a focal point” for the store, and she plans to fill the space left by Black Dinah’s in a way “that is inviting for the community and supportive of Fairwinds….Fairwinds sold chocolate before I bought the business and that will continue. Right now, it looks like Black Dinah [chocolates] will still be here.”

Shaffer said she hopes that happens. “Certainly being in the same spot as Fairwinds has been beneficial….I think sometimes businesses have a life expectancy and this particular branch of our business reached its life expectancy.”