The C Shop Story
by Patricia Alesse
In the summer of 1970 Mr. Alesse was considering what he might do as a summer job to coordinate with his teaching job. He considered fishing in Alaska but neither one of us liked the idea of him being gone all summer. He considered working at the border, but he said, "Then you are always on the look out for what people are doing wrong, and that's not my style." The other obvious choice for a summer thing in the Blaine area is a business at Birch Bay.
That whole summer we cruised the bay like the teenagers. We looked at the businesses that were already there and tried to figure out what Birch Bay needed. We also spent a lot of time along the Oregon coast which had always been one of our favorite vacation spots. As we looked over their businesses, we were constantly asking ourselves, “What do they have that Birch Bay could use.” Mrs. Alesse's mom had a sorority sister whose parents ran caramel corn shops in Long Beach and Seaside so, by contacts through them, we had an opportunity to talk to some candy store owners. Of all the ideas we thought about, that one seemed like the most fun to us, and there was nothing like it at Birch Bay.
We tested recipes during the winter and in the spring began to talk to Barbara and Ernie Jacobs about renting a section of their Shore Acres Resort (where Jacob’s Landing is now) for a candy shop.
The pictures below show the old Shore Acres location. On the left, in 1921 when it included a gas station. On the right, The C Shop shortly after opening for the first season in 1971.
How The C Shop Got Its Name
Our location was by the sea, we planned to make the candy where people could see it, and many of the things we wanted to carry (cotton candy, carmelcorn, carmel apples, candy, cake donuts, and local crafts) started with the letter "C" so we began thinking of calling our store “The C Shop” right away. However, we wanted some clever way of writing it so people would remember it. We played around with a list of things inside of a big "C" and all sorts of ideas but nothing seemed just right. One day Mr. Alesse wrote a "C" and started to write an "S" inside of it.
Before he had finished it, we both knew it was going to make a whale and that it was just the clever thing we had been looking for. So that is how The C Shop whale was born and how we got our slogan, "A Whale of a place to go!"
The pictures below show the old Shore Acres location. On the left, the interior in 1973 as Patricia serves some lucky customers. Peanut Brittle cost 49¢ per pound and a small popcorn was 15¢! On the right, Patrick and Patricia taste carmel apples on the porch in 1977. You can see early iterations of the whale logo and products that begin with the letter "C".
When people ask why The C Shop is called The C Shop or what the "C" stands for, we play a little game with them to get them thinking about it. We say there are at least 5 major reasons why.
- Because it is The Candy Shop.
- Because it is by the sea.
- Because you see things being made.
- Because many things start with "C".
- Because it's a "Whale of a place to go."
When customers start thinking of reasons, they come up with lots of them: crazy, creative, corner store, Canadians, all the individual things that start with "C", cavities, calories, changeable, and the list goes on and on. That it is the Alessee shop was thought of by someone else about two years after we started the shop. We had never thought of the connection with our name.
With the name decided and the location secure, we started putting together The C Shop. We opened on Sunday, June 26, 1971, and made our first batch of candy (Carmelcorn) on June 29th. Our motto that year was, "There is only one substitute for experience and that's quality." From the very beginning we wanted to use high quality ingredients and turn out products that tasted delicious. We also wanted to have fun foods like snow cones and cotton candy. Some of the candy makers we talked to said we couldn't do both: have concession foods and high quality candy too. After 42 years, we think we have proved them wrong. Since we make our own snow cone syrups and cotton candy sugars, our concession foods have gained a reputation for being high quality also.
As with many family businesses, child labor laws don't apply. On the left, Keith (age 7) stirs candy while Burton (age 5) looks on. On the right, Patricia supervises while the boys press out Bicentennial coin candies. Those candies began their journey in June of 1975 and traveled by wagon train from the Peace Arch in Blaine across the country to Valley Forge arriving in time celebrate the Bicentennial July 4th, 1976.
Moving The C Shop
The C Shop grew each year and remained 8 years at Shore Acres Resort until the Jacobs sold it for the development of the Jacobs Landing Condominiums. In the summer of 1979 we moved to the present location at 4825 Alderson Road. We began by renting the space and then were able to begin buying the building so that we could count on The C Shop location being a permanent one.
Since our new home was larger than was needed for the candy shop alone, in 1980 we decided to add a small scale bakery (to compensate for the cake donuts that we weren't able to continue in the new location) and a sandwich shop. We worked to get it ready for most of the summer and finally on August 23rd (the Café’s anniversary), we opened with only a couple weeks left before Labor Day. In 1988 we added evening pizza and, as coffee and espresso became more popular, we began roasting our own coffee and making espresso drinks.
As it turned out the "new" building fits The C Shop just perfectly. It is the original resort building at Birch Bay started before 1904, and much of our old fashioned candy and baking equipment is the same vintage as the building.
On the left, The C Shop in it's new and current location. For more on the history of the current C Shop building, please see this history of The C Shop building page. On the right, a new whale sign!
Since 1974, The C Shop has also made hollow and solid molded white and chocolate Easter candy. We open The C Shop at Birch Bay for the 3 weekends before Easter, but most of our Easter candy is sold wholesale to stores in western Washington.
In 1995, we began making some of our most requested candies at Christmas for wholesale, corporate sales, and special orders. In 1996, we began making our daisy mints and shipping them all around the country for the Blaine P.E.O. chapter. (P.E.O. is a ladies group that supports education for women.) Occasionally we make Valentine's candy on a small scale and sell it to a few stores or individuals.
Since 2008 we have kept the candy shop open with limited candies and baked goods during the fall “shoulder season” until we sell out. The Cafe closes on Labor Day which has been the traditional end of The C Shop summer season.
In August of 2009, our older son Keith and his partner Saara Kuure made the decision to become more involved with The C Shop with the intention of taking over eventually so that Pat and Pat could retire. They have worked very hard bringing much energy and enthusiasm to do long needed improvements and take on lots of new projects. If you are familiar with The C Shop you will notice several changes over the seasons. The updates and remodeling should keep The C Shop going for another 40 years!
Once again, "There is only one substitute for experience and that's quality".