CAMDEN, Maine — When Dwight Blue was offered a one-year leave of absence from his English teaching position at Rockland District High School, he and his wife Maggi Blue decided it was time to join the family business. On Saturday, the Warren couple will open Chocolatier Blue, a gourmet chocolate truffle shop on Bay View Street.
The chocolates are made in Berkeley, Calif., by Dwight Blue’s brother Chris Blue. Chris Blue sells them in three California stores and he sends them to the third Blue brother, Sean Blue, who sells them at another Chocolatier Blue store in Lincoln, Neb. Now there’s another place to ship the truffles.
“I don’t think there is anything like this here. This is very high end, unique — it’s not like a Turtle — it’s a luxury,” Maggi Blue said while standing in her small, bright shop that has striped blue, light blue and white walls.
The time between mixing the cream and chocolate and when it ends up on a granite countertop on Bay View Street will be about five days.
The company seasonally changes its flavors, but some that likely will be sold in Camden this weekend include passion fruit caramel, Orange Julius, grapefruit with rosemary, peanut-butter-banana and ants on a log. The ants on a log truffle has a thin dark chocolate shell that pops when you bite it to gush a ganache, which has cream infused with peanut butter, raisins and celery.
The way Chris Blue plays with flavor is a weird, fun-sounding science.
For instance, in his red velvet cupcake-flavored truffle, he pulverized a real red velvet cupcake in a food processor until it was like a powder. Then he used that powder to infuse the flavor into cream. Cream and chocolate make up the ganache inside each truffle. He did a similar process to a frosting, which he added to the cream to make a cake-tasting truffle.
Truffles then are airbrushed with vegetable-based colors and cocoa butter for a glossy, colorful finish.
These truffles will be the staple of the Blues’ business in Camden, but the store also will stock chocolate bark with fruits and nuts, chocolate bars with candied lemon and orange and hot chocolate, which will be made fresh in the store with locally sourced milk.
Chris Blue and his fiancee Jessica Steeve started the business in 2007 in California. Right in the middle of a national economic crisis. Which, according to them, was the best time to start a new brand.
“Every time we have recessions, people open businesses. It’s cheaper, there is no competition and there are low operational costs,” Chris Blue said. Since their first store, Chris Blue and Steeve have been able to reinvest their profits to open the other stores.
“We’re not relying on banks right now,” he said.
This has benefited Camden, according to Dan Bookham, the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce executive director.
“Out of a recession is the best time for business to start. There is access to capital and low rents.”
Camden’s chocolate shop opening aligns with a quiet, upward trend of Camden’s storefronts filling up. Recently, upscale bar and restaurant 40 Paper opened in the Knox Mill in downtown Camden, and an authentic Thai restaurant Long Grain opened on Elm Street, for instance.
“There is new stuff springing up in the past few months. There are more businesses opening than closing,” Bookham said. “In the midcoast, businesses have held on, some expanded. It’s a sustainable growth pattern.”
In the Bay View Street shop, the truffles will cost $1.50 a pop, or $10 for 5 or $18 for 10.
The cost is escalated because of the cost of ingredients. According to Steeve, it’s typical for a chocolate maker to pay about $2 a pound for their chocolate supply. Chocolatier Blue pays more than $30 a pound for fine Italian chocolate.
“People want to treat themselves. Everyone can afford a box of five chocolates,” Maggi Blue said.
Although all three Blue brothers and Steeve were in Camden to help with the start-up, Maggi and Dwight, both of Warren, will be left on their own soon.
If nothing else, the store will be a nice reprieve from high school literature, Dwight Blue said, although he’ll miss Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”
“It was an opportunity to do something my brothers started. It’s a nice break from teaching,” he said.
“And I’m a freelance designer, so I can do it,” Maggi Blue said.
“And it’s something everyone enjoys. I’m not selling hardware. I can connect with people over something they can enjoy, which I’m happy about,” Dwight Blue said.
“And everyone likes chocolate,” Maggi Blue said.
The Warren couple will open the store Saturday, June 25. Chocolatier Blue is at 12 Bay View St., across from the post office, and is open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The store will be open year-round. For more information visit chocolatierblue.com.