By Mike De Felice
Special to Kitsap Daily News
PORT ORCHARD — When you walk in the door of The Candy Shoppe, the first thing you notice is the smell of rich chocolate. A community favorite, the Bay Street business is home to an array of homemade fudge, rows of chocolate truffles, mounds of taffy, and glass bins brimming with colorful treats that have been a perennial stop for generations of locals with a sweet tooth.
“The first thing customers see when they come in is a display of nostalgic candy – Beemans, Clove and Back Jack gum; Reed’s Lifesavers in cinnamon, root beer and butterscotch flavors; and Charleston Chews, Chick-O-Sticks and Necco wafers,” store owner Tami Spore said.
“People are amazed when they come in.”
The Candy Shoppe, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, is an authentic old-fashioned candy store. One-pound slabs of fudge made onsite are showcased under glass. A variety of international licorices also entice customers. Meanwhile, off-kilter “wacky candy” like candy rats and tarantulas, mesmerize young customers. Toys and stuffed animals also abound.
“I read that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were the number-one selling candy, so I bought some. But, they don’t sell well in my store because there are so many other different things to choose from,” Spore said.
Of all the goodies in the Bay Street confectionery, perhaps the best-known item is fudge.
“Plain chocolate is our biggest seller,” the owner said.
Other faves are sea-salt caramel, chocolate walnut and a confectionery called Snickers, which features a caramel center with peanuts and chocolate. The preference for many older customers is Penuche fudge made of brown sugar.
“This time of year, people start asking for our peppermint fudge. Also popular is peppermint kiss, which is really pretty; it’s white with little specks of actual candy cane in it.”
Other seasonal fudge flavors include summertime hits like watermelon, and pink and blue cotton candy. Around Halloween time, out comes pumpkin and pumpkin walnut. During pre-COVID times, people coming to the store were given a free sample of fudge; that is a tradition that many customers hope will return once things get back to normal.
The store’s chocolate truffles are the next bestseller. They are made of rich white, milk or dark chocolate and contain ganache (a mixture of soft chocolate and cream), and caramel, nuts or fruit, she explained. The most popular truffles are peanut butter and one called “wedding cake,” which is made of cake and Bavarian cream encased in white chocolate.
Saltwater taffy is also a big draw. “There is a wall of taffy. We have over 50 flavors. Huckleberry and banana are two favorites. And licorice is huge,” the owner pointed out.
The store carries 21 kinds of licorice including — “Broadway Wheels” from Italy, a molasses-flavored version from Finland, and double-salt coins from Germany. Australia’s Kookaburra, a soft licorice, is the top seller.
Since the store has a wide variety of goodies, kids sometimes have a hard time making their choice, she said.
Interestingly, the younger clientele often gravitates to what Spore describes as “gross items.”
“At Halloween, a ‘Box of Boogers’ candy was popular. Now we have ‘Sour Flush,’ a candy that comes in the shape of a toilet bowl and comes with a plunger.
“The kids lick the plunger, stick it into the toilet where it collects sour powder they lick it off. I don’t know why you would want to buy something that looks like a toilet, but the kids love it!”
The Candy Shoppe has been at the same downtown location for the past 20 years. Spore frequently hears customers fondly recall visits to the sweets shop during their youth.
“The other day, an adult came in with his grandfather and said, ‘Granddad, you remember when we used to come here?’ I often hear someone say, ‘I used to ride my bike down here and get candy!’ So many family memories,” Spore recounted with a smile.
The Candy Shoppe owner lived in Port Orchard two blocks from the store’s location until the fourth-grader moved to eastern Washington. Her parents are longtime Port Orchard residents, both graduating from South Kitsap High School.
Spore purchased the shop three years ago after deciding to make a career change.
“I was a dental lab technician for 30 years in Kirkland. I made teeth like gold crowns and bridges. I worked in my lab all the time so I didn’t see people very much. I decided, ‘I have to get out and meet people’.”
“I thought a candy shop would be a fun business to own and a way to see happy little children,” she chuckled.
The 60-year-old woman had originally planned to buy a candy store in Westport on the Washington coast. She sold her house in Kirkland to move to the coastal town, however, the sale fell through. Without a house, she returned to Port Orchard to live with her parents. During that time, luck struck. Driving past The Candy Shoppe one day, she noticed a “For Sale” sign in the store’s window.
In 2017, Spore purchased the store from the original owners, Steve and Sandy Charbonneau, who opened the sweet shop in 2000.
Today, the store operates with a small staff that includes Spore’s mother Patsy.
“My mom is 81. She helps in the store. She has a type of arthritis where she needs to keep moving or she gets stiff. She fills up the taffy bins, does the dishes and sweeps the parking lot. She is amazing. She works circles around anybody, including myself,” Spore laughed.
The Candy Shoppe is practically considered a landmark by some since so many locals over the years have enjoyed going there to buy treats.
So far, the business has been able to weather the current pandemic.
“I think people are searching for something to make them feel good,” Spore reflected. “Diets now don’t seem quite so important.
“The nostalgic candy is able to take people away from everything they are going through today. A typical reaction is, ‘Oh my gosh, I remember this.’ They are excited. It makes my day when I order something and it gets that kind of reaction from people.”