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Weathering the hard times by selling chocolate

Two holiday-themed chocolates from Dean's Sweets, Kristin Thalheimer Bingham's store in Portland, Maine. Melissa Mullen

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My Economy tells the story of the new economic normal through the eyes of people trying to make it, because we know the only numbers that really matter are the ones in your economy.

Businesses large and small will up their staffing and production in preparation for the holiday season. And that includes Dean’s Sweets in Portland, Maine, run by Kristin Thalheimer Bingham and her husband.

For the latest My Economy entry, we spoke to Bingham as she and her staff were preparing for their busy season. 

My name is Kristin Thalheimer Bingham. I live in Portland, Maine. My husband and I have a small business called Dean’s Sweets, and we make and sell hand-dipped chocolates.

Before we started our business, my husband was an architect and I had just completed my MBA in 2002. Dean was, in particular, looking for a second business. And he makes amazing chocolate, so he tossed around the idea of starting a chocolate business. And that’s when the recession hit.

So in 2008, you can imagine, the world of architecture kind of collapsed at the same time. So we found a really nice, very small spot, 700 square feet. We decided we would make a go of it.

I do all the day-to-day stuff, the operations. My husband is really the chocolate maker, so he’s in the kitchen. Dean makes this amazing caramel hot fudge sauce, and when he’s making it, the place smells so good.

After a few years, after we started coming out of the recession, then we moved to our new space, and we got bigger and we started to hire a few people. The economy is growing, people feel comfortable and confident to spend money. They feel like they can indulge a little bit in themselves.

It does feel like it could change very suddenly. You know, it feels like we could go into another recession. What 2008 showed us is that people don’t stop buying a few small luxuries. We laughed about it. I don’t have any data on this, but I think the wine shop still did well. People were looking for a little escape. If we fall into another recession, there would still be people out there who would be looking for some high-quality chocolate.

How’s your personal economy doing? Do you have a story to share? Let us know! This series only works with help from people like you.

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