MiVT: Birnn Chocolates of Vermont

Published: Feb. 11, 2019 at 2:56 PM EST
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Back in early November, the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Linda McMahon, toured three Vermont businesses. One of those companies was Birnn Chocolates in South Burlington.

The Birnn family moved its company from New Jersey back in 1991 to be closer to the ski resorts and local dairy farms. The Made in Vermont company has a history as rich as their chocolate, but a reputation that's unknown to most in the area.

You could say Julia Birnn Fields had a pretty sweet upbringing, considering she grew up in a truffle making factory.

"Worked here in high school, worked summers, had my birthday parties here as a kid," Fields said.

She and her husband, Mel, became the fourth generation to run Birnn chocolates of Vermont back in 2010, taking over the business from her father and uncle.

"They were doing everything to build the business. When we came in, we had this fantastic foundation, so we've been able to build off of that," Fields said.

Birnn Chocolates has 22 employees and over the years as worked with the Vermont refugee resettlement program.

"We've had a great selection of people from different places and we've just been able to mesh together and work together," said Christina Burbo, a production manager with the company.

On this day, they're making the most popular of their 154 different truffles, Raspberry Dark. They're going to make about 1,800 pounds worth before the day is over.

"The flavoring's really delicious. It looks beautiful too. It's got a nice dark shell with a pretty pink stripe on it," Burbo said.

They use chocolate from two companies in Pennsylvania that source cocoa from all over the world. The chocolate comes in 2,000 pound totes. Inside are 10 pound bricks that are melted down and blended with other chocolates and recipes from Fields' great grandfather.

"We have one product. We make truffles, so we really focus on that. We're not distracted by a million other things," Fields said.

That's because Birnn is a wholesaler. Most of Birnn's customers, throughout the country, re-label the truffles as their own."

"We're very much behind the scenes. We like it that way. We close down at 5 o'clock. We're closed on the weekends and holidays. That was a choice my dad and uncle had made," Fields said.

And it looks like they also made the right choice nine years ago when they asked Fields to take over the truffle trade.