SAN MATEO, Calif. - A California candy store that survived the Great Depression has now made it through a pandemic to celebrate 100 years in business.
Charles See started See’s Candies back in 1921 after he convinced his mother, Mary, to share her homemade candy recipes with the world.
Her kitchen had the classic, post-Victorian black and white tile floors, which became the inspiration for the checkerboard look of the stores that remains today.
CEO Pat Egan grew up in San Mateo and has years of memories, of heading into the See’s store at the Hillsdale Mall with his grandma and mom.
He describes the candy as having the perfect container of chocolate, that keeps the insides just perfect, without any preservatives.
The most popular candy in the case?
The Scotchmallow, which is also one of the most unique.
"We make our own marshmallows. We actually source the honey from Southeastern Washington state. It's a signature honey that has a couple of interesting notes to it, so that goes into the marshmallows," says Egan, who added that the chocolate, surrounding all that marshmallow, is made by Guittard Chocolate, which is also a Bay Area company, that has been around 50 years longer than See’s.
He says it was very scary when the uncertainty of the pandemic hit: "In the span of about five days, we closed 240 shops."
The 100-year-old company had to try new ways to get to its customers and stay competitive, including signing up with DoorDash, and offering curbside pick-up.
But, Egan says that couldn’t replace the customer service people have come to know and love about their local See’s Candies store.
"We like to think if you walk into a shop, you're part of the See's family. We're going to take care of you," he says.
Most store managers have been with the company for more than 10 years.
Daniel Martinez, at the Hillsdale Mall store, said longevity is key.
"We were literally born out of 1921, so we've experienced depression, we've experienced recession, and we've come through before so I was fully confident that we were going to come through it again," he says. "I guess the biggest question, was how long were we going to have to wait."
They didn’t have to wait long.
The stores were able to open in time for Valentine’s Day, which is one of the busiest holidays at See’s, and sold 661,981 heart-shaped boxes of chocolate this year, contributing to the best quarter ever for the company.
Both Martinez and Egan agree, they have one of the sweetest jobs out there.
This year for the centennial celebration, See's is introducing a new candy every month.
If it's popular, you may see it again. In February, it was a special heart-shaped truffle, April was chocolate-covered Peet's Coffee beans, and there will be a very special one in November.