After a Christmas season of rough weather and doubling sales, the owners of Black Dinah Chocolatiers on Isle au Haut are charting a course for Portland.

“Resources are difficult and limited here,” said Steve Shaffer, who has run the high-end chocolate business with his wife Kate Shaffer on the Penobscot Bay island for eight years. “We have to bring everything out here, take everything off the boat. Our utilities and insurance are three times as much as the mainland.”

Come this summer, the popular gourmet truffles will be made in Greater Portland.

“That’s the goal,” said Shaffer.

Self-taught entrepreneur Kate Shaffer, recognized by Dessert Professional Magazine in 2011 as one of 10 top chocolatiers in North America, makes lavender and sea salt truffles emblazoned with artistic designs such as bees and flamingos.

Due to increasing demand for her decadent morsels around the world, moving to Portland would make the company’s logistics more efficient.

“It’s hard to produce and box them and get them to the boat,” said Shaffer. “It’s a very skilled industry and a new industry. Not a lot of companies do truffles.”

The company is not shutting down its Isle au Haut or Blue Hill locations. It will convert its island production facility into a test kitchen and hire 10-15 people for a new facility in Greater Portland. Shaffer is searching for a 6,000-square-foot space to streamline production and keep up with shipments.

“We don’t know where it will be yet. It’s at the beginning stages of this process,” said Shaffer, adding that the new facility will be used for manufacturing only.

Once it’s up and running, Black Dinah’s Blue Hill store will convert to a tasting room to showcase new creations he said.

As one of a handful of business on Isle au Haut, the Black Dinah cafe, where gourmet breakfasts are paired with sipping chocolate, will open this summer said Shaffer, who still lives on the island.

Natives of Pennsylvania and California, the Shaffers are poised to boost the state’s economy. “We love Maine and want to continue to support it,” said Steve.


Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.