As a young girl, Maggie Calpin aspired to run her own business, but she didn’t know what kind. At just 24, though, she accomplished that goal when she bought Nibbles & Bits, now located at 205 S. Blakely St. in Dunmore. She later became a certified chocolatier so she can contribute as a chef, when needed, at the store. So far in her 10 years as a business owner, she has earned many accolades, including the 2018 Irish Echo Small Business Big IMPACT 50 Award, and was named one of the Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal’s Top 25 Women in Business. Calpin is a graduate of Wyoming Seminary; Keystone College, where she studied business; and Empire Beauty School, where she received her cosmetology license. She lives in Dunmore with her rescue dogs, Lucy and Gussie.
Meet Maggie Calpin…
Q: How did you get into the craft of being a chocolatier?
A: I dabbled in Nibbles & Bits during beauty school. I would work during holiday seasons on weekends. It was cute, fun, and I made gifts all day. My sister said to me Nibbles & Bits was for sale. It just spoke to me, as weird as that sounds. I thought I should buy it. We’re baskets first, then chocolate, but all feel-good items. We started doing chocolate because most customers would order gift baskets and ask for candy or chocolate or something sweet along with other items. In 2013, I became a certified chocolatier. There were many people who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America teaching me. They showed me everything from truffle-making to hand-dipping, to making caramel and everything in between. I was naturally good at it and thought it was cool.
Q: Describe the artwork that goes into your edible products.
A: We hand-make, hand-cut and hand-roll everything. For the decorations, we have meetings every other Monday. Right now, we’re doing fruit truffles, all made with real fruits. The (decal) flowers are pretty for spring. The Oreos, right now, have decals on them. When I think of summer, I think of barbecue season, so they have hot dogs and watermelons on them. We have a big white board that we hand write every idea and goal. We all chime in.
Q: Your treats are often used on wedding days or other very special occasions. What emotions come along with being part of someone’s big day?
A: I never really thought of it that way, to be honest. I love what I do. I love making gifts for people, and I love seeing them excited and happy. I didn’t think of the aftermath of how they feel other than I hope they love the gifts and the deliciousness. I never realized that my gift baskets might be part of the whole “new mom experience.” That is really cool.
Q: What is the most memorable custom piece you’ve created?
A: We had a customer call us. She wrote a book, and she was interviewed by Martha Stewart, and she had us send a gift basket to Martha Stewart in New York City. I even considered hand-delivering it. Not that we’d get past security, but just to make sure it got there in tact. The other exciting time was when we were up to get on QVC. QVC was adding a category for gift baskets. They came across our website and liked it. They had us send a bunch of baskets to them to check for quality assurance; everything was great, it passed, and then the category got dropped. In business, those things happen, but those are probably the two neatest orders.
Q: What is something being a business owner has taught you?
A: I’ve been in business for 10 years. My mentor from the Small Business Development Center at the University of Scranton, Lisa Hall, said to me, “Before you get in business, you need to be prepared, you’re going to get burned.” There was this naive part of me that had no idea what she was talking about. I was burned numerous times by random salespeople who sold me a pitch, and next thing you know, you’re signing over a huge check and have no idea what you’re doing. There are things like that you wish you could go back and think about it. Being so young and realizing that not everyone has your best interest. I also learned I can get through a lot of stuff. Things happen in your personal life, but I had to put those aside and continue to work. We had a fire and could have shut down the store, but we didn’t. We shut down for a day, then popped a tent up the next day. My oldest sister passed away from breast cancer around Christmastime two years ago. That’s my busiest season, so I worked the day of her viewing and managed to get the orders out. I’m glad I was able to get through those things and be OK.
Q: What is your favorite treat food other than your own chocolate?
A: I love diet Sunkist. I know it’s not good for you, but that’s probably my weakness. For snacks, I love peppermint patties. It’s so strange, I know.
Q: What hobbies, interests or community involvement do you have?
A: I’m a Scranton Chamber of Commerce member. I’m part of a group called Circle 200; it’s all women in our area. It’s a lot of business owners and some doctors and lawyers. I was the president of the Green Ridge Business Association for two years and was one of the founders of the Green Ridge Fall Fest. I introduced myself to everybody and asked them if they liked to have parties. Someone told me there used to be a business association back in the ’70s. We started planning for a fall festival and wanted to get the community out and see what we have going on. I’m a part of MetroAction’s board of trustees, too, and a founder of Boss Ladies. I like the driving range when I get a chance to hit golf balls. I am always up for anything.
Q: Can you pinpoint a specific moment or event in life that helped change your perspective on something?
A : When I got the phone call one night about the store being damaged badly after a fire, I was scared. I went to see it, and the storefront was completely ruined. I was in my mid to late 20s, and every penny I’ve ever earned had been put into that. I considered filing for bankruptcy. I was truly scared and didn’t know what to do. I had no other income coming in. I always have a plan A, B, C and D, but I ran out of backup plans. The next day, I called my friend who has a tent company and hitched a tent outside, wiped the tears away and thought, “Let’s do this.” I’ve had all this stuff thrown at me, but I keep going. Through some hiccups in life, including the death of my two sisters from cancer and a divorce, I saw a therapist who told me I’m like a phoenix. I kind of rise up from the fire. The (store) fire really was rock bottom for me, but this mindset to keep going was really emulated in the fire.
Emma Black is a photographer and writes Up Close and Personal, which spotlights people from all walks of life in NEPA who have a unique skill, craft, talent or trade. She is a graduate of Abington Heights High School and University of Scranton, where she studied journalism and electronic media. Emma has been with Times-Shamrock Communications since 2016 and enjoys playing, coaching and following soccer; exploring international cuisine; and doing arts and crafts in her free time. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100; @emmablack_13