Truffles, turtles and taffy, oh my!

With several Portland candy stores to choose from, gift options for this Valentine’s Day couldn’t get any sweeter.

Located at 448 Forest Ave. near USM’s Portland campus, Haven’s Candies has been offering handcrafted confections since 1915. Haven’s Portland location is one of three shops, with other locations in Scarborough and Westbrook. Chocolate-covered strawberries, an item Haven’s offers exclusively for Valentine’s Day, are often recommended for those struggling to find the perfect gift. Dipped in premium dark or milk chocolate, the decadent fruits have become a bestseller for the company.

“The chocolate-covered strawberries are a customer favorite,” said Eric Meserve, an employee at the Portland Haven’s. “They’re a Haven’s bestseller, for sure.”

This year, the Haven’s Factory and Retail Store in Westbrook received a shipment of over 30,000 California strawberries. The berries can be picked up, shipped or hand-delivered anywhere in the Greater Portland area. If you’re in a pinch, orders placed by Feb. 13 are guaranteed to arrive on Valentine’s Day.

Homemade fudge and sugar-free candy are available at all Haven’s locations, as well as a colorful array of jelly beans and M&M’s. Classic favorites like Warheads, Now N’ Laters and Jawbreakers also line the shelves.

While Haven’s carries almost any candy you can think of, the store has yet to make some confections available.

“We get a lot of customers coming in and asking if we have chocolate-covered bacon,” Nieves said. “For that, I point them in the direction of the Old Port Candy Co.”

At 422 Fore St., the Old Port Candy Co. is nestled near Portland’s historic waterfront. In addition to chocolate-covered bacon, the store carries a wide selection of self-serve candy. Over 30 bins contain sweets such as Gummy Bears, Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish and Juju Fruits.

In order to prepare for Valentine’s Day, Old Port Candy Co. starts filling its shelves in the middle of January.

“We work pretty hard to get candy out as fast as we can,” said Tori Houle, one of three Old Port Candy Co. employees.

The store’s signature item is its homemade fudge, made by owner Anna Largay. Available in over 100 flavors, the fudge is a big hit among locals and visitors to Portland.

“We see a lot of people from the cruise ships in the summer time,” Houle said. “In the winter, visiting hockey teams will come in and spend around $30 each on fudge and other candies.”

Customers looking to treat themselves or to impress that special someone can choose from traditional fudge flavors like chocolate, peanut butter and cookies and cream. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try the chocolate jalapeño.

Traditional sugary delights like chocolate-covered strawberries and homemade fudge are sure to satisfy any sweet tooth. If you’re looking for artisan candy made by a self-taught chocolatier, however, there’s one Portland shop that’s got you covered this Valentine’s Day.

Situated within walking distance of Old Port Candy Co. is Dean’s Sweets, a small shop at 82 Middle St. specializing in elegant, high quality truffles.

Shoppers can choose from exquisite flavors like salted caramel, lemon apricot chèvre and chocolate stout, all of which use local ingredients such as Maine sea salt, Sunset Acres Farms goat cheese and Allagash Black Belgian style stout.

Other popular choices include a milk chocolate candy bar made with Maine potato chips, a bacon butter crunch truffle, and a homemade hot chocolate mix. All of the chocolate used in Dean’s Sweets recipes comes from a nut-free facility, and vegetarian and gluten-free truffle options are also available.

An architect by trade, owner Dean Bingham originally started Dean’s Sweets out of his home kitchen in 2004. What began as an intricate hobby quickly progressed into a full-blown passion, and Bingham opened the Middle St. shop with his wife in November 2008.

“As an architect, Dean just has this wonderful ability to conceptualize. He gets truffles right on the first try,” said Kristin Thailheimer, wife of Bingham and co-owner of the shop.

Dean’s Sweets truffles are sold individually in the store, and mixed assortments can be purchased in eight- or 16-piece gift boxes. One Valentine’s Day gift that’s sure to please is the boozy assortment: a mix of brandy, rum, scotch and tequila lime-filled truffles.

Whether you’re looking to play it safe this Valentine’s Day or take a walk on the wild side, Portland candy shops have something to offer everyone. Like every gift-giving holiday, however, last-minute shopper syndrome is prevalent. If you need Cupid’s arrow to remind you not to procrastinate, there might be some dangerously tasty consequences.

“There’s definitely more guilt when you wait until the last minute,” Meserve said. “Some people end up walking out of here with a lot more than they originally intended.”


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