Cheer and chocolate at Wilbur’s of Maine
May 4, 2018
Cappuccino Meltaway Truffles. Almond Butter Crunch. Coconut Clusters. Dark Chocolate Pecan Turtles.
Peering into the glossy display case at Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections on Maine Street is enough to entice even the slightest of chocoholics. The chocolates, in an assortment of shapes and shades of rich brown, sit closely one beside the other in the glass case, together forming an expanse of smooth and sticky confection.
The treats, which range from chocolate blueberries and chocolate molds to fudge and caramels, owe their popularity to the Wilbur family. Tom, Catherine and their son Andy—Wilbur’s current owner—have been running the family business for nearly thirty-five years.
In 1979, Tom and Catherine, from California and Boston, respectively, packed their things and came to Freeport, hoping to live beside the ocean and work as school teachers in the area. In 1983 Freeport was beginning to see a rise in factory storefronts and general businesses. The couple—tired of teaching for the time—had the idea to open up a chocolate shop in town.
By 1987 business was booming in the Wilburs’ first store—a shop tucked cozily into the second floor of a Bow Street storefront. Ready to expand and seeing an opportunity to do so in Brunswick, the two purchased their Maine Street location in a space that had been previously occupied by Tontine’s Fine Candies, another candy shop whose owner was looking to retire.
The business began strictly as a retail store. Tom and Catherine’s initial intention for their Bow Street location was to buy and sell chocolate, not to make it. With time, however, the couple began experimenting with chocolate making and eventually, the two began creating and selling homemade Maine chocolate.
“When we first started, we made it at home, but now we have a chocolate factory in Freeport as well,” said Catherine. “Once we realized that we could make a better product if we did it ourselves, that’s the way we went.”
Today, the Wilburs make about 95 percent of the chocolate in their store and purveying local-homemade products has quickly become central to the store’s mission.
“Making our own chocolate is very important to us because it helps us to employ more Maine people,” explained Catherine. “We also use Maine products whenever we can. We just think that that’s important,” she added.
In 2016, Andy Wilbur officially took ownership of the business and has moved the business forward, playing a major role in decision-making as well as in developing inventive new chocolate recipes. In his new position, Andy tries to keep his parents’ values of community engagement and connection to Maine in mind.
For now, his biggest goal is to give back to the community of returning customers who have contributed to the business’s success. The family is currently working on completing an event space at its Freeport location to host local parties and seasonal activities for the community.
“At Christmas we sell build-your-own chocolate houses instead of gingerbread houses, at Easter we have an Easter egg hunt that’s free for the community. Every month we do something so people can come in and make something with candy,” said Catherine.
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