Eventually Strohecker developed a catalog and moved the company out of his basement and into a building in Salem, Mass. The company remains in that same location, but has since expanded and now inhabits 25,000 square feet on two floors.
Most operations are carried out here, including candy production, warehousing, fulfillment, accounting, creative direction, customer service, marketing and management. Call center operations are outsourced to Taction, a company based in Waldoboro, Maine. The Salem location also houses a retail store, a mecca for chocolate-lovers worldwide, says LeBlanc. Guests are greeted by an employee offering chocolate samples on a silver tray.
LeBlanc began working for Harbor Sweets in the 1970s while she was a business school undergraduate at Salem State College. “I started out as a part-time chocolate dipper,” she recalls. But she took advantage of Strohecker’s policy of cross-training employees, and she learned many other duties on the job. Some days she made the chocolate, and other days she prepared the bank deposit or opened the mail. “I thought it was a little part-time job that would be fun and help me pay for college,” she says. LeBlanc continued to work at Harbor Sweets after graduation, eventually moving into marketing, operations and finance. In 1998, she bought a majority stake in Harbor Sweets. “It’s a rare opportunity to be able to buy a company that you know so intimately,” she notes.
Today Harbor Sweets makes four lines of chocolate. The Nautical Collection includes shapes inspired by the New England coast line where the company is headquartered. Dark Horse Chocolates are inspired by LeBlanc’s love of horses. Perennial Sweets is a line comprised of chocolate candy with a garden theme. And the Sugar Free line is lower in both sugar and carbohydrates than the company’s other offerings. It also sells jarred dessert toppings.