Beloved Chocolate Maker See's Candies Celebrates 100 Years of Delicious Treats
In 1920, Charles A. See, a Canadian chocolate salesman, moved his family, including his mother Mary See, from Ontario to the booming economy in Los Angeles. Charles aspired to open his own candy store with recipes his mother used to make her beloved chocolates at home in in her kitchen.
A year later, Charles opened the first See's candy shop in 1921 based on two key principles that wouldn't be compromised, and are still adhered to to this day: Mary's recipes, and the best ingredients that money could buy.
The first shop that opened was at 135 Western Ave. North in L.A. Candies were sold in the front, and Mary handmade them by scratch in the back.
The popularity of See's Candies quickly took off, and by 1925 there were 12 shops in L.A. In November 1931, Charles opened Mary See's Sunlit Candy Studio — a See's chocolate shop and kitchen where customers could watch through giant plate-glass windows as confections were made.
Over the next decade, See's continued to grow, expanding to San Francisco and growing its fan base even more with its mini-candy kitchen at the 1939 World's Fair. More than 8,000 people attended the 1940 grand opening of the 15,000-square-foot candy kitchen at the corner of Market and Valencia which featured state-of-the-art technology like air conditioning.
Nearly a decade later, See's made its way to TV — and into living rooms across the U.S. — with a float in the 1949 Rose Bowl Parade. But perhaps See's most memorable TV appearance was in the "Job Switching" episode of "I Love Lucy" in which Lucy and Ethel learn about dipping and packing chocolates. The iconic episode was filmed in See's candy kitchen on La Cienega Boulevard in L.A.
By 1960, See's had 124 shops in California, and in 1961 opened its first shop outside The Golden State in Phoenix. Hong Kong was the site of See's first international shop, which opened in 1976. Today, there are more than 240 shops across the U.S., not to mention a robust online store, and kiosks in airports and malls.
Asked how See's has remained relevant in the marketplace for 100 years, Pat Egan, See's Candies president and CEO, told Allrecipes, "There are a few things that immediately stand out. It's so hard for a company to make it a decade, let alone a century, but we really attribute See's 100 years to three things: our team who makes and sells the best candy on planet, our dedicated customers, and our ability to innovate."
That ability to innovate means that new candies and flavors have been introduced over the years, with a special focus this year during See's centennial celebration.
"This year, for our Centennial and for the first time in our 100 years, we launched a new piece each month," says Egan. "It was no easy task, but our customers are loving each piece.
"In October, we launched the Dark Peanut Crunch, which is a fresh take on the classic Milk Peanut Crunch," he continues. "We also launched the Centennial Fall Favorite Tin, which was inspired by Dorothy Gray Forbes who designed See's artwork for over 50 years. I love this assortment because it features classics like Mary See's original Dark Maple Walnut and the more recent Milk Caramel Apple Scotchmallow which, of course, is a modern twist on an iconic See's piece — the Dark Scotchmallow. There is something for everyone in this assortment."
Developing new flavors doesn't mean See's is leaving its candied roots behind, however.
"One of the many things that I love about See's is that we still use several of Mary See's original recipes today," says Egan. "Not a lot of companies can say that they use hundred-year-old recipes, but we proudly do because they are so fantastic.
"Today, we still make our Peanut Brittle, Chocolate Walnut Fudge, Victoria Toffee, Bon Bons, and Maple Walnut Creams the same way that Mary See did 100 years ago," he adds. "They truly can't be improved upon."
Egan also noted that See's still uses fresh and mostly local ingredients — primarily sourced in California — to make its candies every day, without adding preservatives.
In addition to committing to making the highest quality candies, See's keeps its customers top of mind, too.
"See's is also committed to ensuring the customer is first and foremost," says Egan. "We make the pieces they want, we introduce the pieces they request, and we want the best customer experience possible.
"In recent years, we've improved our options to serve customers, whether online, in stores, or for delivery or pick up," he adds. "We will continue to meet the customer where they are."
It's not just the customers who are loyal to See's, but its employees as well, and the company's 100-year anniversary means a lot to them, too.
"Our employees are proud to work for an iconic company like See's, and I am proud to work for them," says Egan. "We make and sell joy which is something truly rare and special, and it's also a reason people stay.
"Making people happy is a mission, and our people are glad to choose to accept that mission every day," he continues. "It says a lot that we have so many employees who have been with us for decades. Their love and dedication to the brand is reflected in years of service, and we wouldn't have made it 100 years without them."
Reaching this milestone is a remarkable feat, but See's isn't planning on resting on its laurels. When asked what's ahead for See's, Egan told Allrecipes, "A lot! Since 1921, See's has prided itself on stellar customer service and quality candies — and we plan to continue to uphold these high standards for the next 100 years.
"We will continue to innovate, expand, grow, serve our customers, and make the best quality candy that you won't find anywhere else. I am looking forward to our next 100 years and know our future will be extra sweet."
Sweet Facts About See's
- More than 26 million pounds of candy are made every year — that's about 800 million candies!
- A custom fleet of motorcycles used to deliver candy around L.A., including to Hollywood celebrities.
- The world's largest lollypop set a Guinness World Record in 2012, weighing in at 7,000 pounds.
- Tanker trucks deliver liquid chocolate to See's kitchens.
- See's has developed dessert recipes using their candies for even more sweetness