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November 21, 2013

'Desserts is all we want to do'

Under new CEO, Dianne's grows its community presence

Newburyport resident and Dianne’s Fine Desserts featuring Alden Merrell CEO, Mike Knowles knows what it means to be a good neighbor.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Knowles whose company just increased their holiday donations to the Newburyport Salvation Army chapter by 50 percent. “I wish I could claim that it was my idea, but it was probably a request from the Salvation Army and we’re more than happy to oblige.”

Knowles, who along with business partner Dan Scales and backing from Superior Capital Partners, bought Dianne’s from the Hines Corporation in May of 2012, is now donating 200 dessert trays to the Salvation Army for Thanksgiving and 200 more for Christmas.

“Dan and I have been in the desserts business forever, and we brought some renewed focus to the desserts business (here),” said Knowles whose company has also been making weekly donations of 120 dessert servings to the soup kitchen at the Immaculate Conception Church, and another 250 servings to Meals on Wheels, averaging about 20,000 servings a year.

Not a fan of a long commute, Knowles moved to Newburyport himself over the summer, taking up residence less than a mile from the Graf Road facility which employs roughly 250 people, houses a retail store, and smells like cookies.

“It’s great fun,” Knowles said. “Any time the dessert salesperson shows up at a customer’s, they are happy to see him. If you’re out there peddling mustard or Wasabi or whatever, it’s a different reaction. People love to talk to you about desserts. It’s fun work with fun products.”

Although it has been Dianne’s since the turn of the 21st century, the facility started out as the Alden Merrell headquarters after the brand was created in a shack on Plum Island by Preston Alden Reed and Skip Merrell Sterns in the 1980s. But when Knowles arrived, the name on the sign out front was changed from Alden Merrell to Dianne’s, and has created some confusion ever since.

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