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June 11, 2020

Citing Black Lives Matter, Black Dinah Chocolatiers will change its name

FILE / TIM GREENWAY Steve and Kate Shaffer changed the name of Black Dinah Chocolatiers to Ragged Coast Chocolates.

Black Dinah Chocolatiers — founded on Isle au Haut near Black Dinah Mountain — announced on Facebook Thursday that it will change its name.

The chocolate maker, now based in Westbrook, said it plans to unveil a new name next month.

In a letter to customers, co-owner Kate Shaffer said she'd given a lot of thought to racism and "the powerful movement that is in play in our country at this moment." 

Though she did not specifically refer to the George Floyd murder at the hands of Minneapolis police, she said the company was looking for the right response to the recent discussions about race — "my company's place in it all," she wrote. "And it's past time to address the elephant in the room."

She said people frequently ask about the origin of the name. When the company was started in 2007, founders Kate and Steve Shaffer lived near the base of Black Dinah. 

Talking about the name was intertwined with the chocolate company's grassroots start, as a tiny operation on an island only accessible by mail boat from Stonington. The company's high-end chocolates have been featured in Martha Stewart Living, Gourmet magazine and the Boston Globe, and they're distributed throughout New England. 

Five years ago, the company moved to Westbrook, where it could expand and where it would be more easily accessible to vendors. But with wider exposure, the name took on other associations, she said. 

"Several years after we moved our company to the mainland and south to the Greater Portland area, we noticed, to our dismay, that not everyone had the same good associations with our company name. And as our customer base grew, so did our perspective," Shaffer wrote.

She said discussion about changing the name started last fall and was to be a long-term goal.

But, she wrote, "perspective is powerful. We've been changing ours a lot lately. And I realized I was wrong. The time is now. It's always been now."

She said the new name will take effect in mid-July, though product labels and marketing will retain the existing name for now.

"We look forward to sharing that name with you and stepping into our new shoes. And stepping off the sidelines. Black lives matter. To me, to the team here in Westbrook, and to our customers," she wrote.

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