Taffy & Fudge: Sweet Traditions of the Oregon Coast
What could be better than walking along the beach and reaching into your pocket for a piece of taffy or fudge to savor along the way. Yummm! And not just any taffy or fudge but “Oregon Coast made” by candy makers that have been creating these delicious confections for decades.
Salt water taffy has been a coastal tradition for more than 100 years, but in the past couple of decades fudge has also gained a devoted following. It has become so popular that now there are more shops making fudge than taffy at the coast. Of course, there’s no secret about the appeal of fudge—it’s the chocolate. That’s what draws people in, but once in a fudge shop, they learn of the many varieties and combinations of flavors available these days. Taffy has many flavors too, but its appeal is in its chewy, light texture.
To ensure taffy’s lightness, the candy is stretched as it cools. Today pulling machines, with their circles within circles movement do the hard work, and most taffy makers make sure visitors can watch the machines in action.
When making fudge most shops use the old-fashioned method of cooking the ingredients in a large copper kettle, pouring the concoction onto a large marble slab to cool, and working it with a wooden paddle, known as “creaming.” Many shops have windows into the kitchen areas so visitors can see the fudge-making process.
Listed here from north to south are confectioners that make their own salt water taffy and those that make their own creamy fudge.
A recent remodel in the winter of 2007-08 created twice as much space in this candy shop that has been a big part of the community for decades. Favorite taffy flavors among the 26 choices include peppermint, cinnamon, and peanut butter.
There’s been a candy store at this location since 1897, and it’s been in the Phillips family since the 1930s. The taffy puller, dating back to 1923, produces 14 flavors of which the favorites are peppermint, licorice, and chocolate-peanut butter.
Since 1974 the Reads have owned this candy store with its red and white paint job. And it’s still owned by Reads, but now it’s the next generation—Mark and Cynthia. This past year, they both traded careers in law enforcement for candy making. According to Cynthia, “It’s been a refreshing change!” Visitors can choose among 18 flavors.
Depoe Bay–Ainslee’s Salt Water Taffy, 66 SE Hwy 101 (541-765-2431)
This waterfront candy store has been in this location since 1947 and the current owners since 1978. Visitors choose among 31 flavors of which the favorite is licorice, and windows make the whole process easily visible.
Newport–Newport Candy Shoppe, 440 SW Bay Boulevard (541-265-2580)
Because owner Robert Hoefs believes in using the best ingredients, he buys the more expensive cane sugar instead of beet sugar. He makes 78 flavors of which the most popular are peppermint, red-hot cinnamon, and vanilla. His most unusual are his special Ducks and Beavers taffies.
Gearhart–Pop’s Sweet Shop, 567 Pacific Way (503-738-8484)
You won’t see Pops, but you might see owner Cynthia Taft. She uses high quality ingredients in her fudge and likes to create varieties to suit her customers’ tastes.
Fudge varieties made here include peanut butter, walnut, penuche, and divinity. For those not familiar with divinity, it’s a meringue-based fudge with walnuts, and penuche is a brown-sugar fudge with or without nuts.
The oldest candy store on the coast seems to be the only one that makes their own taffy and their own fudge. And in their rocky road fudge, they even make their own marshmallows.
Seaside–Buzz on Broadway, 406A Broadway (503-717-8808)
With one of the largest selections of fudge on the coast, the Buzz has more than 60 varieties with 36 on display any day of the year. Owners Steve and Carolyn Tunison are always coming up with something new.
Cannon Beach–Tom ‘n’ Larry Candies, Sandpiper Square (503-436-0526)
The original store is still in Seaside, but both stores have belonged to Charlene and Doug Palmer since 1967. Charlene’s son, Chuck Baliconis, is the fudge maker, and he uses the copper kettle and marble slab method. Visitors can watch him in action at both stores.
The original store opened in Cannon Beach in the 1980s with Wayne Schwietert proprietor. Today the fudge maker is his son, Jeff, who opened this second shop in Rockaway. Jeff offers more than 30 varieties. And if customers buy four pieces of fudge, they receive two pieces free.
Rockaway Beach–At the Beach/Beach Treats, 102 Hwy 101 (503-355-2106)
Owner Martha McFadden offers about 12 varieties of fudge made with the finest ingredients, including Tillamook cream and butter and Oregon-grown walnuts.
Mike and Carolyn Laverty are very fuddy-duddy about their fudge, making eight flavors in small batches from a 100-year-old recipe that includes Guitard Chocolate. Each batch cools on a 900-pound, 4-inch thick slab of marble.
Mike Kemp makes 12 varieties of fudge with the copper kettle and marble slab method, and this includes sugar-free fudge also. There are two more Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factories located in Seaside.
Seal Rock–Indulge, 10645 NW Pacific Coast Hwy (541-563-2766)
Owner Monica Teem hand mixes each batch. She offers 26 varieties, including chocolate with and without nuts, peanut butter, café mocha, penuche, and several more unusual flavors.
Seal Rock–Kadi’s Gifts & Fudge, 10449 NW Pacific Coast Hwy (541-563-4918)
Kadi’s is hard to miss with its red paint job. Owners Karen and Dick Stilwell make fudge in small 5-pound batches and use high quality chocolate.
Winchester Bay–Dockside Gifts, 120 Coho Point Loop (541-271-1210)
When owners Ron Schmidt and Wendy Clawson bought the business in 2003, they continued the tradition of making fudge and added new flavors. Expect the unusual, such as Creamsicle, Key Lime, and Tiger Butter.
Besides the myrtlewood products, there is a fudge shop decorated with gingham curtains and vintage stoves. You can see into the kitchen and watch as Stacy Dewater creates the house specialty—vanilla-chocolate-caramel-nut fudge—and other fudge varieties too. Some varieties are sweetened with fructose.
Bandon–Big Wheel General Store, 1st & Baltimore in Old Town (541-347-3719)
In 1937, this building was a feed and farm supply store. For the past 22 years, owners Don and Marykay Whitmer have included a fudge factory. They offer 22 varieties including penuche in the spring, divinity most of the year, and a local cranberry specialty—cranberry-nut fudge.
Gold Beach–Sweetbriar Fine Gifts & Candy (home of the Chocolate Frog Fudge Factory), 29865 Ellensburg Avenue (541-247-2231)
Proprietor Kathy Roseberry has a passion for fudge, which is why she creates 35 varieties. Bestsellers are chocolate-walnut and peanut butter. For holidays, she creates special concoctions such as jalapeno fudge for Cinco de Mayo.
Brookings–Harbor–Beachfront Gifts, 16011 Boat Basin Road (541-469-8025)
This gift shop/candy store at the Port of Brookings offers fudge-of-the-day samples from among its 16 flavors. Fudge-maker Alice Aimar welcomes special orders for those who want their own exclusive fudge.