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.
“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.’”