Friday, July 5, 2013

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory~ A.K.A. See's Candies

I don't usually do posts on local events but here's the deal:
Last week I was invited to our new See's Candies grand opening blogger-only party.
And I learned a lot about See's. 
As I told the one who invited me (Thanks Ann!), 
I've never really had a feeling about See's Candies before...
but I do now. 

A family-owned business through much of the 20th century,
See's Candies was opened in 1921 by Charles A. See 
using the original recipes of his mother, Mary Wiseman See.

The originals consisted of: 
Chocolate Walnut Fudge, Victoria Toffee, Hand-Dipped Bon Bons, and Maple Walnut Creams. 

When the Depression hit, See's slashed prices 30 cents a pound
and Charles asked his landlords to take a cut in rent,
less being better than nothing,
so they could survive together. 

During the Second World War's toughest times,
See's was faced with butter, cream and sugar rations.
But rather than change the quality ingredients,
See's bet the farm that customers would rather have less of top quality
than an inferior product.
They rationed their candies. 
When stores ran out, they closed early. 

And while others were forced to close,
See's expanded into the San Francisco Bay Area. 

In the Roaring Twenties, 
Employee Hugh Fry would deliver candy all over Los Angeles
on a Harley Davidson fashioned with a lace-curtained, tiny cottage over the side car
which served dual purposes: 
as delivery storage 
and billboard. 

In the '30's, deliveries were made by Model A. 

Today, See's Candies creates more than 23 million pounds of confections a year
and over 800 million pieces of candy. 

In June 2012, it joined the Guinness Book of World Records
with the world's largest lollipop weighing 7,003 pounds. 
The Root Beer lollypops below
are seasonal, summer favorites. 

And for those who need to go sugarless,
there are options. 

They've expanded their stores to over 200 across the US,
Japan, Hong Kong and Macau.
And expanded their creations.

Another endearing feature is just how many employees
have remained dedicated to the company for 10, 25 and 50 years.

Our grand opening even brought the mayor in for a ribbon cutting.

But the most intriguing aspect to the story for me,
besides a family-owned business that survived and thrived for 50 years
and a business that has now kept their doors open for nearly a century,
was learning that in 1972, the family sold to someone who exemplifies
 their own family, business and moral ethics.

A man known as 'The Wizard', 'The Oracle', and 'The Sage of Omaha';
A man who has pledged 99 percent of his immense wealth to philanthropy,
particularly the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation;
A man who believes that his children should not be 'given' the kind of money he has amassed
but that our world could better benefit from his good fortune, wise decisions and investments.
(The Gates Foundation and their work to globally better healthcare and reduce poverty
also aim to increase education and technology access in America.)
A man I feel so positively strongly and strongly positive about,
I created a character who saves the day in my upcoming novel
based on him and using his initials.

The family sold to Warren Buffett.
I mentioned that I've never had a feeling for See's Candies before
but this knowledge changed everything for me.
When I buy now,
it will be See's.

(BTW~ WB's favorite is the Peanut Brittle!) 
(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen) 


  1. Good evening Kristen,
    What a wonderful story... About all I knew of See's was that is was a family business.. Thank you so much for sharing the history. It has always been my favorite treat.

  2. Kirsten, all their candy used to be hand-dipped. I wonder if they still do that. I didn't know WB bought it, but it is a superb candy maker.

  3. Kirsten,
    Oh I loved this post about Sees, as it is a special place that I go to often, and the café a lait that is shown here is one of my very favorites. I am such a Sees lover that Jess bought me a book about Sees for Christmas a few years ago.

    They say it's one of the happiest places, and I truly believe it. I haven't gone in for a week or so cause I have to watch my sugar intake right now.

    Very interesting facts that you have shared with us. Thank you.



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