South Portland– Twelve year-old Rangeley native Jeremy Thibodeau was excited when his parents promised him a trip to pick out a bag of candy on a visit to southern Maine. That excitement quickly turned to disappointment when he found himself inside South Portland candy store Chocolate Jesus.
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Chocolate Jesus is the brainchild of Greenwich, CT native Thomas White, who started the shop after leaving his job in entertainment law in New York City.
“I just got burned out, so I packed up some clothes, my laptop, my guitar, and just pointed the Jetta north,” he said. That journey up I-95 led White to South Portland, where he “just fell in love,” he said.
Following a life-long dream to open a candy store, White scoured the internet to find only the most unpalatable and expensive sweets from around the world.
“We’re called ‘Chocolate Jesus,’ but we don’t actually sell chocolate,” White laughed. He said the name is from a Tom Waits song. “The closest we have to chocolate are these chili pepper-infused raw cocoa bars from Guatemala.”
A huge selection of confectionery treats in heavy apothecary jars line the busy shop interior. Most contain variations of salted licorice, but some have exotic treats like Turkish Delight and translucent, amber nuggets from Finland White says “really burst with herring flavor.”
“It’s all they eat in parts of Europe,” White told the young Thibodeau of the many varieties of salt licorice, offering him a bite of the dusty treat made popular during the plague.
Thibodeau declined and instead asked his parents to take him to a local Walmart for “normal candy.”
White said he sees that a lot. “A lot of people who come in here from other parts of Maine just don’t know what ‘good candy’ is.”