Small Business Spotlight: Dean’sSweets

How this sustainable chocolate shop has maintained growth for twelve years
Sustainable Business Spotlight: Dean'sSweets - Root360

Dean and Kristin Bingham, co-owners of Dean’sSweets in Portland, Maine

For many, Valentine’s Day equals chocolates. There’s only one place in Portland, Maine’s Old Port to get freshly made, hand-dipped, delicious truffles – Dean’sSweets.  Co-owners and partners-in-life Dean and Kristin Bingham opened Dean’sSweets from their home in 2004. Since the start, they have grown Dean’sSweets by building their business within their means (e.g., purchasing equipment as they were able to pay for it, adding staff as it became necessary and cost-effective, and making significant purchases without incurring financing), and by finding new ways to embrace their local community. And of course, by making delicious chocolates that highlight the bounty found in their local environments.

As an architect, chocolatier Dean brings a sense of aesthetics and high standards to his truffle-making and applies his design talents in the selection of the highest quality ingredients. He’s always trying to do things a bit differently so their products evolve and improve over time.  Providing new reasons for customers to return, he continuously investigates new ingredient combinations (think Lemon Apricot Chevre or Wasabi Ginger Sake) that play well with chocolate.

In today’s economy, sustainability is a key differentiator and provides a business with a competitive advantage; ensuring future growth and continuation of the business. When it comes to the ‘green’ type of sustainability, Dean and Kristin do their part.  They recycle all cardboard and plastic bags, use green cleaning products and paper products whenever possible, and compost all vegetable food waste. They commute by bicycle or on foot whenever possible. Focusing on their supply chain, they also work with a long list of local, sustainable purveyors. To name just a few:

  • Organic maple syrup tapped in Madison, Maine
  • Cream from Smiling Hill Farm, a local farm whose mission is ‘to produce the highest quality dairy products available in a sustainable manner that protects and respects our animals, our employees and the environment on which we all depend’
  • Butter from Kate’s Homemade, produced using cream from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones, churned 20 miles south
  • Coffee from Coffee by Design, a coffee roaster with fair trade and organic coffees who also supports a wide number of community and environmental endeavors

Being a truly sustainable business means supporting your community. Dean’sSweets supports groups like the local Convention and Visitors Bureau because of their tourism advocacy, and Portland Buy Local because they believe in the idea of buying local (see that extensive list above), and hope that others will do the same. They also donate to a wide number of local fundraising efforts because they believe they also benefit from the act of giving.

So this Valentine’s Day (or any holiday or occasion), whether you’re in Portland, Maine or Portland, Oregon or somewhere in between, take a moment to consider the impacts of what you’re buying, how it was made and what type of materials went into it.  The effects of that one box of chocolates on your local economy can influence more businesses and individuals than you even imagined.

Dean’sSweets is the first business that we’re profiling for our Root360 blog; you can find them located at 475 Fore St. Portland, ME or, until Valentine’s Day, at the Maine Mall.  If you have a story about your small business that showcases your commitment to enhancing your economic viability, fostering your community, or materially reducing your environmental footprint, we’d love to hear from you.  Please email Danielle Sarmir at for more information.

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