SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

September 25, 2013

Raising the bar

Salem's Harbor Sweets celebrates 40 years of business -- and introduces a new line of chocolates

(Continued)

The company produces 50 tons of chocolates a year from its red brick factory, in the former Eaton Pharmacy warehouse, and employs about 50 people year-round. But that number nearly doubles in the months leading into Christmas, said Billie Phillips, vice president of marketing. About 70 percent of the company’s business is done in the fall, as many corporate businesses buy gifts for their clients.

“We are definitely a seasonal-driven company,” Phillips said.

Harbor Sweets’ workers come from the North Shore, with many from Salem, including the Point neighborhood. Many of them, including seasonal employees, have been with the company 20 years or more.

“I don’t think the workers appreciate how talented they are at what they are doing,” LeBlanc said.

While there are machines involved in the cooling, drying, coating in chocolate and wrapping of the candies (two of its foiling machines are antique), much of the work is done by hand, including Harbor Sweets’ signature chocolate, the Sweet Sloop.

To make the sailboat-shaped almond butter crunch, a worker carefully smooths out the molten butter crunch into a table-top-sized rectangle formed by metal bars. As the butter crunch hardens, he uses rollers to cut the toffee into triangles. The factory can churn out 28,000 Sweet Sloops a day, Phillips said. It’s the chocolate that started the company.

When a ship bell rings, it’s all hands on deck. About a half-dozen workers come from various stations to help with the creation of sand dollars. A worker quickly forms dollops of hot caramel onto parchment after it is cooked in copper kettles. Before it hardens, workers sort and press pecans into the dollops. These later go to a molding area where the hardened caramel and pecan are placed in a sand-dollar mold and covered in dark chocolate.

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