Monday, November 29, 2021
Nov. 29, 2021

Linkedin Pinterest

Life behind the See’s Candies counter

By
Published:

LOS ANGELES — Stacey Thorpe can put together a custom 1-pound box of See’s Candies, gift-wrapped, in five minutes or less. She knows where every piece of candy sits behind the counter at her Glendale, Calif., store. Her speed and crisp corners, she boasts, have prompted many customers to ask if she’ll come home with them to wrap their holiday presents.

Thorpe, 47, is a third-generation See’s Candies employee. Her grandmother was a manager. Her mother started in the 1960s, working as a sales clerk and manager until retiring in 2000. Thorpe started as a 16-year-old seasonal temp in April 1990, also working her way up to manager. She runs the store at the Americana at Brand in Glendale.

After more than 30 years, Thorpe can’t imagine doing anything else.

“One of the reasons I started working at See’s was my brother always poked his finger in the chocolates to determine what it was,” she said. “I told my mom that I’m going to work at See’s so I could actually get a whole piece without a finger in it.”

Thorpe placed handwritten menus next to the boxes of chocolates at family gatherings with names and arrows pointing to the various pieces. “I would write, ‘Hands off. These are mine, and these are yours,’” Thorpe said.

Now with two kids of her own, Thorpe said she’s not allowed to walk in the front door without her family’s favorite candies.

See's hacks, fun facts, limited flavors

The following are Stacey Thorpe’s tips for how to use See’s Candies to upgrade your coffee, movie theater popcorn, Thanksgiving side dishes and more, along with some fun See’s facts from President and Chief Executive Pat Egan.

Hacks

Make your own PB&J: Cut a Raspberry Cream and a Peanut Butter Patty in half. Eat half of one with half of the other.

Make your own movie snack: Take a box of Bridge Mix into the movie theater or your living room. Buy or pop a medium popcorn and dump the Bridge Mix onto the popcorn. Shake and enjoy.

Upgrade your cup of joe: Unwrap a Scotch Kiss (honey marshmallow surrounded by caramel) and drop it into your hot coffee. Let it melt and then stir.

Holiday yams: Unwrap enough Scotch Kisses to cover a baking dish of mashed yams. Bake in the oven until the candy is melted. Serve and impress everyone.

Make s’mores: Melt a Scotchmallow onto a graham cracker square.

How to spot the candy

You can tell the difference between certain pieces by studying the tops of the candies.

A Cherry Cordial and a Double Caramel look similar, for example, but the Cherry Cordial has lines across the top, while the Double Caramel has a smoother surface.

Limited flavors

The company launched new flavors each month this year, with sales limited to that period. Here’s a rundown of what you may have missed: Dark Butterscotch Square (January), Milk Raspberry Heart Truffle (February), Dark Peanut Butter Egg (March), Chocolate Coffee Beans (April), Almond Brittle With a Kick (May), Peanut Butter Bites (June), Lemon Drops (July), Dark Salted Caramel (August), Birthday Cake (September), Dark Peanut Crunch (October) and Milk and Dark Coffee Scotchmallows (November, still available).

Fun facts

  • The most popular See’s Candies are the Scotchmallow, Bordeaux (creamy brown sugar soft center covered in milk or dark chocolate and decorated with sprinkles), lollipops and Peanut Brittle.
  • There are more than 120 holiday pop-up shops.
  • The average See’s shop is 1,200 square feet.
  • The company produces 1 billion pieces of candy annually.
  • Twenty-three million pounds of candy are covered in chocolate every year.
  • One million pounds of free samples are handed out each year.

“My youngest used to use the open dishwasher as a stepping point to get to the See’s candy on the counter,” she said. “I always have See’s in my house.”

Thorpe’s day-to-day duties involve helping customers, making the store presentable and applying various “gift toppers” (ribbons and boxes). She said her shop receives many orders for wedding favors and birthday gifts.

One of her favorite things to do is selecting and giving out free samples. Customers can ask for any piece, but the store always offers a sample of the day. Is it possible to ask for too many samples? “No, never.”

Thorpe also doesn’t mind a little quality-control tasting of her own.

“I don’t have any self-control with the candy,” she said. “The most I’ve had in an eight-hour day is probably five pieces on my break. Customers might order a specific piece throughout the day, and I’ll think, ‘You know what? The Bordeaux does sound good.’”

100 years of See's Candies

1921 — Charles A. See, a Canadian chocolate sales representative, opens a small candy shop in Los Angeles with wife, Florence, and widowed mother, Mary See. (Mary’s is the face on the See’s boxes.) The trio sells candy made using recipes Mary developed while running a hotel with her family on Tremont Park Island in Ontario, Canada.

1925 — See’s Candies grows to a dozen chocolate shops across California.

1928 — The company starts a motorcycle delivery service that delivers chocolate around L.A.

1931 — Charles opens the Mary See’s Sunlit Candy Studio chocolate shop and kitchen. People watch the candy being made through large plate-glass windows.

1936 — Charles sets his sights on San Francisco. Within four years, he opens 18 shops in the Bay Area.

1939 — See’s Candies hosts an exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York with a shop and a miniature candy kitchen.

1940 — A 15,000-square-foot candy kitchen opens in San Francisco. The public is invited on a tour; 8,000 people show up to the grand opening.

1942 — See’s Candies halts production during World War II due to rationing.

1949 — See’s participates in its first Rose Bowl Parade with a 15-foot Easter Bunny float.

1952 — Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance visit the See’s candy kitchen. The visit prompted the memorable “Job Switching” episode of “I Love Lucy.”

1959 — See’s starts using tanker trucks to transport its chocolate in liquid form to its production facilities.

1960 — The brand grows to include 124 shops and more than 1,000 employees. Over the next 10 years, the company develops a mail-order department that packs and ships candy.

1961 — The first shop outside California opens in Phoenix.

1972 — Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger buy the company and make it part of Berkshire Hathaway.

1976 — The first international shop opens in Hong Kong.

1985 — See’s launches truffles at all of its shops.

1995 — See’s rolls out a website with a full-service online store with worldwide shipping. Annually, the website gets 7.9 million visitors and makes 1.5 million shipments.

1998 — See’s opens a production facility in Burlingame, Calif., that exclusively produces its lollipops and Little Pops.

2012 — Guinness World Records says a 7,000-plus-pound See’s chocolate lollipop is the largest in the world.

2020 — See’s Candies suspends production for a month and a half in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, generating headlines nationwide.

2021 — The company celebrates its centennial. Activities include the launch of a new limited-edition piece every month of 2021 and a What’s Your Sweet Idea contest that leaves the next See’s flavor up to a customer vote.

Loading...