Hilliards Chocolates

If you’re a chocolate enthusiast, you are in for a real treat today. The team at Morse Insurance is back with another client spotlight, and this time we are shining the light on Hilliards Chocolates. This local chocolaterie has been a New England landmark for nearly a century, so it’s highly likely you’ve heard of this beloved brand, if not tested the delicious chocolates and candies made and sold at their North Easton, Norwell, and Mansfield locations. From traditional chocolate favorites like Almond Toffee Crunch to seasonal favorites like Peppermint Bark and trendier creations such as Beer Brittle, there is a rich history and unique inspiration behind each piece of chocolate Hilliards makes. Their chocolates have even received high praise from an uber-famous billionaire and a Hollywood A-lister. Here to tell us more about Hilliards and its recipe for success is the company’s creative director, Erin McCarthy.

Morse: Your great-grandparents, Perley and Jessie Hilliard, opened the first Hilliards store in Easton, Massachusetts, in 1924. What do you think is the key ingredient to Hilliards’ consistent appeal over the past 10 decades?

Erin: From the very beginning, it has always been our family’s goal to provide our customers with a signature experience. This means that no matter what Hilliards location you visit, you will find it to be a warm and inviting environment in which all your senses are stimulated. You will see hundreds of handmade chocolates displayed in truly unique ways; you will smell the cocoa wafting from our copper kettles; and you will hear the hum of our factory in progress. There is nothing that can compare with this robust, in-person sensory experience. It creates nostalgia, definitely whets the appetite, and has kept customers continually coming back for more. Of course, one of the main contributors to our longevity are the exceptional chocolates we craft. Our chocolate is one of a kind, and I mean that literally. We developed an exclusive blend of chocolate that is used in all our handmade recipes.

Morse: How have you stayed true to your original chocolate product but also managed to evolve with the latest chocolate trends?

Erin: We are here to make our customers happy, so if there are fan favorites, we want to keep them as part of our chocolate menu. For example, our Chocolate Fudge has been around since Hilliards first opened its doors, and it’s a keeper. However, we do like to regularly delight our customers with new and interesting flavors. Often, this means an innovative take on an old favorite. Our Beer Brittle is a good example of this because we use our traditional chocolate base and combine it with a taste—craft beer—that is in vogue right now.

This creation was not without its challenges, though. Retaining the taste of alcohol in chocolate is really tricky because it burns off quickly in the tempering, or chocolate-melting, process. You can use alcohol-flavored products to simplify the process, but at Hilliards we always want our chocolates to be authentic, so we of course put real beer in our Beer Brittle. Using beer from Easton’s own Shovel Town Brewery, we’ve created another incredibly flavorful and distinctive chocolate product.

Morse: Speaking of tempering, your family really put its stamp on this process. Would you tell us more about Hilliards’ contribution to this challenging part of the chocolate-making process?

Erin: During the tempering process, the goal is to get perfectly textured chocolate, which is not easy. My great-grandfather, Perley, was the first to imagine a machine that could fine-tune the chocolate-melting method. After several years at the drafting table, he finally completed his vision for a tempering machine. However, he was not the family member who actually brought it to life. That ended up being Perley’s son—and my grandfather—Alan, who had started working at Hilliards when he was 15 years old. Alan spent more than a decade devoted to building the invention that Perley envisioned. In 1965, the effort paid off. Alan opened Hilliards Chocolate Systems and began selling these first-of-a-kind tempering machines to chocolate factories around the world. He also produced and patented several other inventions that made a huge impact on the industry and are still used by chocolate makers today.

Morse: Your grandfather, Alan, wasn’t the only one to get involved with the family business at a young age, right? Please tell us about your Hilliards journey.

Erin: My parents, Judy and Charlie, bought Hilliards from my grandfather in 1981. As a kid, I really didn’t put much thought into going to work for them, but I probably should have realized it was inevitable. Still, I was a little shocked when my mom put me on the work schedule when I was 16. At the time, I was like most teenagers and primarily wanted to just hang out with my friends. But it ended up being a great experience. Over the next couple of years, I got to try almost every position imaginable, including packaging, register, and the candy cane station.

Despite enjoying this time working for my family’s business, I decided to move to New York City to pursue a modeling career. During that time modeling, I found my real passion was to be behind the camera, so I decided to go to photography school. After seeing some of my photography work, my mom asked me to take some pictures of the business. I came home to do one project for her and never went back to New York.

Morse: Do you have any memorable moments in your career at Hilliards so far?

Erin: There are two milestones that really stand out in my mind because they were not only exciting for me personally but also pivotal in helping our business reach a wider customer base. In 2018, our Holiday Bark for Christmas and Hanukkah made Oprah’s Favorite Things list. We heard through Oprah’s production team that she loved each holiday being represented with its own red and blue chocolatey drizzle. Another favorite moment of mine was in 2015 when we were asked to make chocolate bears for the cast and crew of the movie Ted 2, which stars Mark Wahlberg. We used special molds to create hundreds of four-inch-high chocolate bears. Making these specialty items helped us develop a part of our business we were trying to expand.

Morse: Today, Hilliards has a dedicated Events Department that creates custom chocolates for weddings, sports teams, fundraisers, baby showers, and more. How did this arm of your business gain such a following?

Erin: Our goal as a business was to have the ability to create any specialty item a customer could dream up. That meant putting highly creative people at the helm of our Events Department. We have a team of six talented confectioners who are not only extremely talented bakers but also have lots of exceptionally unique ideas that inspire our entire team to create distinctive products for each customer. One of my favorite items the team came up with was for a wedding. They created a chocolate-dipped pear with a sweet saying attached, which read, “A Pear Made in Heaven.”

Morse: Another pairing that seems to have worked out well over the years is the partnership between Hilliards Chocolates and Morse Insurance. Is there anything you’d like to share about your experience as a Morse client?

Erin: My parents, Judy and Charlie, were friendly with Dan Morse for many years and often crossed paths with him in the local community. Having seen the care and attention the Morse family provides to all clients, it was an easy decision for my parents to move their insurance business to the Morse agency in 2011. Since then, Dan and his entire team have provided excellent customer service and knowledgeable insurance and risk management advice, treating our family business like it is their own. We have had a few transitions in ownership from generation to generation, and Morse has expertly guided us through the process of appropriately adjusting our insurance policies on our business property, vehicles, and more. It has truly been a pleasure to work with the Morse team and to get to know them personally.

Morse: Your business has brought joy to so many generations of chocolate lovers. Do you plan on spreading the love with new stores?

Erin: Opening a new store is always on the table. We want to make sure, however, that whatever location we select, it can provide the memorable experience we talked about earlier. Each of our current locations also adds something singular to a customer’s visit. For example, in Norwell, we created a quaint, charming space out of the town’s old firehouse. Everything has to come together for us to consider expanding, including having family members who are willing to continue running the operation after we retire. Two of my three kids—my 14- and 16-year-olds—are both helping out at Hilliards now. I guess you could say I’m doing my part to carry on the Hilliards legacy.

Morse thanks Erin McCarthy for her time and invites you to find out more about Hilliards Chocolates by visiting its website or following Hilliards on Facebook and Instagram.

If you enjoyed learning about this Morse client, we, of course, have plenty more client spotlights you can read. Also, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn so you can be alerted when we share our next local business story.

In the meantime, if you need assistance finding business insurance coverage for your unique operation, please give us a call. We would be glad to review your current commercial policies for any gaps or savings opportunities and provide a quote on a new policy. Morse, of course, is here to assist you in finding the best business insurance solutions to protect your success story.

Client Information
ClientHilliards Chocolates
Locations316 Main Street (Route 138)
North Easton, MA 02356
81 Washington Street (Route 53)
Norwell, MA 02061
333 School Street - B150
Mansfield, MA 02048
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