Forget Hershey’s and M&Ms. Tacoma’s got the Johnsons, Brown & Haley and Great Northwest Popcorn – all locally grown businesses that dabble in sweet eats and Christmas treats.
At the Johnson Candy Company, which has operated since 1918 in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, the popular turtles, peanut butter smidgens, Christmas-colored candy corn and those famous handmade truffles are ready for the taking. They’ve even got gift-wrapped boxes for the purely lazy Christmas giver. (You know who you are.)
At the factory outlet stores for Brown & Haley, bargains abound in the form of 99 cent boxes of Candy Cane Roca (can you say White Elephant gift?) and heftily discounted boxes, tins and bags of Roca and its affiliated sibling products.
At Great Northwest Popcorn in downtown Tacoma, a few bucks can buy a bag of handmade flavored popcorn that comes in straightforward flavors like toffee or cheese or more kitschy blends like the Elvis (peanut butter and banana) and a riff on soda pop: cherry vanilla.
Click “more” to read about what local candy companies offer for holiday giving. Bonus: All of these stores are located far enough away from the mall (read: less of a traffic nightmare).
Johnson Candy Company
Where: 924 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Hours this week: Open through Thursday from 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and open 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Christmas Eve Friday.
Walk into the Johnson Candy Company this week, and it just smells like Christmas. Rows and rows of hand-made chocolates, chews, truffles and turtles are available from a few bucks to $30 or more. Empty decorative Christmas tins located at the back of the store can be purchased, for around $1-$6, and can be filled with an assortment of Johnson candies.
These are presents that are easy to choose and give. Gift-wrapped boxes in half pound ($7.95), full pound ($13.95) and two pound ($27.95) sizes come in assorted chocolates, nuts and chews or truffles.
My favorites are the peanut butter smidgens, creamy peanut butter filled milk chocolates molded into fun Christmas shapes: toy soldiers, snowmen, Santas and mini Christmas trees. The smidgens are perfect for the bottom of a Christmas stocking.
Brown & Haley retail stores
Where: 110 East 26th St., Tacoma; 253-620-3067
Where: 2105 Frank Albert Road, Fife; 253-926-0240
Hours this week for both stores: 9:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. through Thursday, then open 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Christmas Eve.
At the factory retail stores, some of the candy may be technically considered rejects, but unless you’re a perfectionist, you may never know the difference. What struck me as particularly festive on my visit to the store last week was a Roca I’d never tried – Candy Cane Roca, milk chocolate covered buttercrunch toffee with embedded pieces of peppermint candy. The Rocas are drizzled with a few swipes of white chocolate and wrapped in brilliant pink shiny foil. A 10-piece box will run you 99 cents, which is an incredibly economical gift if you need to buy for a large group of people. The Roca also comes in a 11.7-ounce bag for $2.50 or a 22 ounce container for $3.33 (or three for $10). Shoppers also will find tins of the regular Roca for which Brown & Haley is famous, the signature Mountain Bars and the various Roca flavors in almond and mocha. And for the baker on your list: boxes of Buttercrunch Cookie Bar mix are $9.99.
Great Northwest Popcorn
Where: 1948 Pacific Ave., Tacoma
Info: 253-779-5676 or greatnorthwestpopcorn.com
Hours this week: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. through Thursday, then 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Christmas Eve Friday.
From straightforward to kitschy, Great Northwest Popcorn has a flavor for every palate. More than 20 flavor choices are packaged into small bags that range from $2.50-$3. And here’s the best part: sampling is encouraged and they won’t balk if that means you want to try one or six.
I marveled at the funky flavors that would be good for that person on your list who appreciates fun flavors. The Tacoma mix combines sweet caramel with cheddar cheese dusted popcorn for a savory-sweet treat. Chipotle promises a kick of heat. Salt and vinegar puts a potato chip spin on popcorn. If you like that, then give the dill pickle popcorn a try.
And they have more straightforward flavors, too. Cranberry Craving combines dried cranberries and a sweet glaze. English toffee, peanut butter cup or chocolate coconut would make excellent stocking stuffers.
The popcorn company also sells hand-made chocolate turtles and more.
Affairs Chocolates and Cafe
Where: 2811 Bridgeport Way W., University Place
Contact: 253-565-8604, www.affairs-chocolate.com
Hours this week: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. through Thursday, then 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Christmas Eve Friday.
What’s better than chocolate for Christmas? Enormous handmade truffles. At Affairs, you’ll find a nice variety in 20 flavors (a list is available at their website). And they’ll even wrap them up in a pretty box for you.