Jim Mingo founded Marley’s Chocolate Lab in Gray — a one-man operation making more than 400 flavors of truffles — seven years ago. In 2015, Marley’s won the Chocoholic’s Dream Award at Lewiston Middle School’s annual Chocolat fundraiser.

1. You’ve been a teacher, a carpenter, worked in real estate and auto parts, and taught snowboarding. What was the inspiration behind opening Marley’s Chocolate Lab and becoming a chocolatier?

In the ’80s to ’90s, I became passionate about cooking dishes and appetizers with “wow” flavor factor. I play keys and would take my stuffed chocolate dipped strawberries whenever I went to play or see a band. I got concerned after a while that people might get bored with them and began to experiment with chocolate truffles. I brought the same passion about “wow” flavor factor to making truffles and thus, now have many “out of the box” truffle flavors, using spices like cayenne, habanero, rosemary, thyme and basil and many flavors that have a bacon ingredient.

(As for the company name,) I raised a chocolate Lab from a 9-week-old pup until I had to have him put down due to a stroke paralyzing his hind legs. As an infant, I didn’t have a wind-up alarm clock to simulate his mom’s heartbeat, so I improvised and put five Bob Marley reggae CDs in a disc player and played reggae music for him all night. That’s how he got his name. When I had him put down, one of my sons said, “You should name your chocolate business after Marley.” I thought it was a great idea.

2. With 400-plus flavors of truffles — Lemon and Basil, Bacon Salted Stout, Raspberry Mint Oreo — how, and how often, do you invent new flavor combinations?

I am always experimenting, looking for ideas for new flavors. I get a lot of satisfaction when someone tries a flavor that they never expected in chocolate. The look on their face, the expressions of bliss when they try something, is what it’s all about.


When I first start a flavor idea, often it comes from something that has those flavors already. For example, my lemon wild blueberry cinnamon chocolate truffle idea came from a recipe for a coffee cake that a friend shared on Facebook. I read through the recipe and thought that combination of flavors would work well in a truffle. I just took those flavors and created a lemon wild blueberry cheesecake truffle this week that has been well received by those sampling them. Today, I took that a step farther and wrapped that same cheesecake filling in caramel before dipping.

I usually tell people that I get most ideas because I lie awake nights. Often times, that is the case. An idea will come to me while I’m trying to go to sleep — so I get up and write the idea down before I forget it!

3. What are the highs and lows of being a chocolate one-man band?

Working in a small kitchen with other passionate cooks can sometimes be intensely frustrating. I am fortunate that the three of us (me, myself and I) get along really pretty well and don’t argue much.

The best part of working for myself is I can’t fire the staff! Truthfully, though, it’s the ability to do things how I want to do them, not having to run an idea by anyone else, and scheduling working time. If I have a ton of chocolates to make, I’ll work until the wee hours of the morning, grab a couple of hours of shuteye, and get up and get right to it — no worries about having to pay overtime.

AND I select the music played while I’m working — great blues, reggae or even The Beatles!


4. Name a policy or issue you’re following at either the state or national level, and the impact could it have on your business.

I don’t spend too much time nor energy with politics. I spend all my energy trying to make truffles for people to enjoy.

5. If you received a $1 million grant tomorrow, no strings attached, what would you invest it in?

I would invest in things like tempering machines, refrigerated display cases, stainless work tables, renting or buying a strategic space for a retail shop, advertising like a website or space in magazines, hiring people to help (I’d still want to keep my hands in things, but creating jobs for others is giving back to the community).

6. It’s Valentine’s Day. There’s a holiday-related package delivered to your doorstep. What would you hope to find inside?

Wine, a note saying they absolutely loved the delicious chocolates they had tried, and an invitation to dinner!

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