WATERVILLE — Making chocolate was just a hobby for Mark Simpson and Nate Towne when they were approached by a friend about selling some of their brightly colored bonbons at an Ellsworth craft fair in 2014.

“We thought, ‘This is a dream and if we wait until we have $30,000 or $50,000 saved up in the bank, it might be too late, so let’s do it,'” said Towne, now the co-owner of Christopher Hastings Confections with his husband, Simpson. “We got a designer to put together a logo, created a website, got our business licensed and about 1.5 months later sold our first bonbon and people loved them.”

The pair were living in Portland at the time but decided to open a kitchen in 2016 in Waterville, where Towne is originally from, and started selling their product wholesale and at holiday pop-up shops.

Now, about two years later, their business is continuing to grow with the addition of a retail shop at 24 Common St. that will be open six days per week.

Filled with brightly colored bonbons with flavors such as Maine Beer Nut Maple Creme, Lavender Honey Tea and Whiskey Sea Salt Caramel, the space opened Monday and is preparing for a grand opening Oct. 6.

Simpson and Towne, who met in Boston in 2001 and recently bought a house in Waterville, said the timing felt right with downtown revitalization efforts underway.

“With the RiverWalk, the new Colby dormitory that just got built and all the changes downtown, including the hotel that could be built in the next few years, we just felt it was the right time,” Towne said. “If not now, then when?”

The name Christopher Hastings Confections comes from a combination of the two men’s middle names. Simpson’s middle name is Christopher and Towne’s is Hastings.

Simpson, 50, has a background as a photonic engineer and continues to work as a consultant part-time in Boston while Towne, 47, is the marketing manager for the downtown arts group Waterville Creates!

Towne’s family has roots in Waterville. His grandfather, Charles E. Towne, used to practice medicine in the same space the confectionery shop is now located in.

Still, it wasn’t until recently Towne said he and his husband considered moving back to Waterville and opening their own business.

They took out a business loan to help build out the space and also worked with the Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation at Thomas College, which Towne said helped connect them with experts in small business and the food industry.

“The way food tourism is going, people are looking for exciting things to try,” Towne said. “The chocolate we offer is not like chocolate you see everywhere, so we’re hoping people will come to Waterville to try it.”

Simpson, who is described by his husband as a “science nerd,” works as the business’ chocolatier, cooking and creating the chocolates and offering up scientific explanations for how they’re made, while Towne’s expertise is in marketing and sales.

Bonbons, or filled chocolate, are the shop’s specialty.

They’re made in polycarbonate molds that are painted with cocoa butter, filled with tempered chocolate and then hollowed out.

Tempered chocolate is chocolate that is heated and cooled to specific temperatures so it doesn’t melt easily and “gives a nice snappy mouth feel,” according to Simpson.

Fillings are sourced from Maine ingredients whenever possible, the pair said, and include combinations such as Maine Whiskey Sea Salt Caramel with whiskey from Maine Craft Distilling in Portland and sea salt from Eggemoggin Salt Works in Deer Isle.

The Maine Beer Nut Maple Creme includes dark maple syrup from Strawberry Hills Farm in Skowhegan and beer from either Bigelow Brewing in Skowhegan or the Waterville Brewing Company.

Once the chocolate shell is filled, it’s capped with more tempered chocolate to finish the bonbon.

Next month, Towne said the confectionery will plan to start offering chocolate-making classes.

They’re also planning to release a signature chocolate inspired by the Kennebec River during a grand opening Oct. 6 that will coincide with the dedication ceremony for the RiverWalk, a $1.5 million lighted boardwalk that opened this month.

If all goes well, Simpson said he’d like to be making chocolate full-time and give up his part-time work in Boston.

Buying a house last year has allowed the couple to keep some of their disposable income and put it into their business, as opposed to spending it on rent, they said. And they’re happy to be in Waterville.

“Life here is so much more fulfilling,” Towne said. “There’s nobody that does the chocolate we do. Unlike Portland, where there are a couple chocolatiers in the area, we can carve out a little territory for ourselves.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.