CANNON BEACH — It was the sweetest party ever held in Cannon Beach.

There were all-you-could-eat hand-dipped chocolates. A bountiful buffet. Wine and beer.

And more chocolates. Oh, so many more.

An estimated 500 people showed up, but it wasn’t just for the food. They wanted to congratulate Treva Haskell and her family on the 50th anniversary of Bruce’s Candy Kitchen.

“I’ve been eating here for 30 years,” said Rich Russell, of Seaside. “My daughter worked here. My wife worked here. I’ve done work here.

“My daughter used to trade me candy for gas money,” Russell said. “She would give me candy, and I would come get her from work.”

Russell then bit into a chocolate.

“My favorite is English toffee,” he said. “It’s a really good combination of nuts and chocolate and the topping they put on it.”

But the English toffee wasn’t without competition.

“Seafoam is also really good,” Russell said.

Opened on April 1, 1963 in the pink-and-white striped building on Hemlock Street that everyone now identifies with Bruce’s, the candy store has been a “must” stop for visitors and residents for half a century.

Bruce and Treva Haskell opened the store, and three generations of family have operated it. Although Bruce Haskell died, Treva continues to be involved in the family business. She called the party on Monday evening “overwhelming.”

“I didn’t know I knew so many people,” she said.

The crowd was a far cry from that day exactly 50 years ago, she recalled.

“The first day we made $3, and we were so happy,” Haskell said.

Everybody’s favorite chocolate is seafoam, she said. “It has been from the start. I don’t like it myself,” Haskell added. Her favorite?

“Chocolate-covered peanuts. Just a plain, old peanut cluster.”

Laurel Hood, owner of Laurel’s Wine Shop across the street from Bruce’s, anticipated the day so much, she dreamed about chocolate the night before. She and friend Lisa Parks grabbed some candy props – a giant gummy bear and a colorful lollypop – and had their pictures taken in the photo booth set up in front of the store.

“I live in town, I work in town and I eat a lot of candy,” Parks said.

Although the Haskells had never made candy before they opened their store, they did have experience running a restaurant in Seattle and operating a hotel in midtown Cannon Beach, where the Hallmark Inn is now. They started with about a dozen flavors of salt water taffy and offer nearly 30 choices today.

That’s not all that has expanded. Besides the waistlines that have probably swelled since Bruce’s opened, the building itself became larger to accommodate more customers as well as additional candy production. The store was remodeled in the 1980s, and because business was so good, another Bruce’s store opened at the Seaside Factory Outlet in 2011.

But customers don’t even have to visit the North Coast to buy Bruce’s salt water taffy, caramel apples or chocolate-covered gummy bears as well as gifts or holiday baskets. The online store at www.brucescandy.com is available.

“I’ve been coming to Cannon Beach for Spring Break for three years,” said Jean Gardner, of Kennewick, Wash., who wrote a congratulatory message on a card set up for those wanting to send a message to the Haskells.

“I always stop at Bruce’s,” Gardner added.

What does she stop for? “Anything chocolate,” she said.

Retired Cannon Beach Fire Chief Cleve Rooper said Bruce Haskell had influenced his life.

“Bruce was fire chief when I moved to town,” Rooper said. “That’s when I became a volunteer firefighter. Bruce agreed to take me on, and the rest is history.”

Rooper was with the fire department for 40 years before retiring in 2011.

He called the family “great people.”

“They support local activities, and they are community boosters to the nth degree,” Rooper said.

What excited Cannon Beach Realtor Alaina Giguiere so much about the party was the opportunity to go behind the candy counter and pick out as many chocolates as she could. The only limit: The chocolates had to be eaten in the store; none could be taken outside.

“This was the first time I got to go behind the counter,” said Giguiere, almost giddy. “Oh my god, I can get anything I want and not feel guilty. When do you get a chance to do that? Never!”

Giguiere’s son, Chance, also went through the chocolate line. His favorite is the “Snyd Pop,” caramel-covered Rice?Krispie treats dipped in chocolate on a stick. The stick, he said, “makes it that much better.”

The chocolate line also enticed Joyce Lincoln, co-owner of Northwest by Northwest Gallery in Cannon Beach. “Dark chocolate,” she said. “Everything dark chocolate.”

But Logan Ladwig reached for something else. “The caramel nut chews are to die for,” he said, putting a few in the palm of his hand.

Tom Ladwig, who accompanied Logan in line, said his favorite was the “walnut urchin.”

But he’s had time to do a lot of sampling.

“I’ve been coming to Cannon Beach longer than this place has been open,” said Ladwig, who remembers camping out in Cannon Beach in the early 1950s.

The Strandemo family traveled from Vancouver, Wash., especially for the anniversary.

“Our family has been coming to Cannon Beach since my grandfather came here 50 years ago,” said Jerrod Strandemo, who, along with his daughters, Julia and Ava, and wife, Clearice, waited patiently for their turn to choose among the candies.

Teresa Taylor, whose son, Brian Taylor, married Treva’s granddaughter, Kelli Truax-Taylor, monitored the line.

“We’re more than happy to have everyone take what they want,” she said. “We don’t have any other rules.”

But, she noted, “You put people in front of chocolate, and they get crazed. I thought of Willy Wonka, who owned a candy store, and the children ate so much that different things happened to them.

“People are going to have a heck of a hangover from all this chocolate,” she said.

But Taylor’s family goes way back in the candy business – much further than the Haskell family.

“My grandmother worked at Hoefler’s candy company in downtown Astoria. My mother hand-wrapped taffy at a store in Seaside, and I worked at Tom N Larry Candies in Cannon Beach.

“My son worked at Bruce’s. We’ve been in candy for a long time,” Taylor said.

Outside the store, where local photographer George Vetter had just taken a picture of the party crowd, Brian Taylor looked pretty happy.

“We’re having a great time,” he said, estimating that about 500 people had come through the doors in just the first two hours of the three-hour party.

While many were there to congratulate the family on staying in business so long, others who were on Spring Break probably just happened upon the fortuitous experience of receiving free chocolate, beer and other goodies.

“Some days you’re lucky,” Taylor said.

“People are going to remember this for a long time,” he added. “They’re going to talk about it. This is going to be a generational story.”

     

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