Auburn's Maine Gourmet Chocolates expands

Kathryn Skelton, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine
·2 min read

Mar. 31—This week the Buzz is outright sweet, a tad bittersweet and laying big 2022 plans, which is sweet.

First up: After almost eight years on Main Street in Auburn, Top It Frozen Dessert Bar is moving to a limited, cart-only schedule and Maine Gourmet Chocolates next door is expanding over.

Corrie Bernatchez said her frozen dessert business stayed outside for all of 2020 due to the pandemic, using a cart for contactless pickup and then opening a service window.

"It worked well, but still wasn't the same as everyone was used to," she said. "We offered Dirt Sundaes with a flower pinwheel, Beach Bucket Sundaes in a minipail with a shovel and scoop. I tried to be as creative as possible to keep people coming back even though we had to pivot our business model from self-serve to full service."

Bernatchez plans to have the Top It cart at the Farmers Market in Auburn, in front of Maine Gourmet Chocolates during major events and festivals and she has a spot at Anniversary Park. She's also continuing to rent it for parties and celebrations.

Meanwhile, her mother, Stephanie Bernatchez, the owner of Maine Gourmet Chocolates, has added a wall of retro candies to the former frozen yogurt wall, moved into her daughter's larger space and turned her original footprint into an event room for parties and classes.

"(Running the shop) was almost my entire 20s," Corrie Bernatchez said. "It was such a rewarding experience having met so many wonderful people and celebrating so many milestones, first birthdays, sweet 16s, prom, an adoption party, our annual Easter Egg Hunts. I can't thank my customers enough for their support and kindness over the years. I really want to stress that this isn't goodbye."

New Hampshire developer Eric Chinburg bought the massive Continental Mill in 2019 with big plans for housing and creating commercial space that were slowed, but not dashed, by the pandemic.

"We are still optimistic about Lewiston and the Continental Mill," the president of Chinburg Properties said last week.

Design plans are in the early stages, he said, as is getting an accurate sense of the existing conditions in the 560,000-square-foot mill complex.

Plans also include "early looks at how the buildings can be used — how much residential versus commercial, access, etc.," he said.

Chinburg said he anticipates approaching the city with designs in late 2021 with "construction for (the) first phase of apartments likely not until mid-2022."

The most popular Easter candy in Maine?

It's Peeps. No joke.

Zippia.com looked at searches in Google Trends for two weeks around Easter last year and unveiled a new map this month showing what it says are each state's favorite treats.

We're in good Peeps company — they're also tops in seven other states.

In 14 states it was boiled eggs, which, hmm. That just sounds like a Tuesday.