Friday, January 9, 2015

Part 2: From Fannie May Candies to Boehm's Candies...40 Years Later!

When I was working my previous job at an airline, I would, on occasion, check in Bernard Garbusjuk, who runs Boehm's Candies in Issaquah, Washington.   But, whoever checked him in had the hard task of sharing the large bag of candies that he brought for everyone at the ticket counter.  We would be like hawks, circling the bag and quickly taking what we claimed to be ours.  I lived in Issaquah in 1989, and would stop at Boehm's to watch the candy dippers through the large windows.   I was always mesmerized by their craft, and would analyze again and again how they did what they did.  But, back to the airport.  I would talk to Bernard about the candy dippers and asked him that if he ever needed another one, could I perhaps work there part-time?  Found out it wasn't as easy as that, as a candy dipper is a union job, and not easily had.  But a few years ago, I found out through my friend at work, Paula, whose daughter, Elizabeth, worked at Boehm's for a few years, that one of their full time packers had left, and they were looking to hire someone.  A packer is one who packs boxes of candy by chart, the chart showing what candy should go where in each box.  Well, I was on top of that one, because that was one of the things I did at Fannie May.  I called Narissa, Bernard's daughter, talked with her for a bit, filled out an application and sent it in.  And even though Narissa was looking for someone full time, things weren't going so well, and she called me in to be interviewed for seasonal work during the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.   I told her that because of working at Fannie May, I not only knew how to pack candy by chart, but cup candy, wrap boxes with paper and finish with ribbon.  The last 2 items were a mute point, as Boehm's wraps all their boxes by machine and doesn't finish with curling ribbon.   But, I was hired, and a star was born!  Actually, I did pack boxes, but most of Boehm's selections have an indented form that fits within the box and you put just the candy in, you don't cup it.  I also got to be a pro at putting boxes together...they came put together at Fannie May, but come flat at Boehm's.  I learned how to load candy on the enrober, the machine with 3 belts that cover the candies with chocolate in various stages, and how to bulk box the finished product.  We may put 500-2,000 pieces of one candy through the enrober, and they have to be packed in bulk boxes and put on the shelves.  But, the most fun was learning to pipe the different shapes on top of some of the candies.   Judy and Amy allowed me to practice some designs, and now actually let me pipe the tops on some of the candy.  But even getting to that point takes a little doing.  You take a triangular piece of paper and shape into a cone, fill it with tempered chocolate, seal the bag at the top (and a lot of times I fill it too much and the chocolate starts leaking out of each side), cut the tip off the bottom of the bag, and then you have only so much time to do what you need to do as the chocolate cools down rather quickly and then it won't squirt out of the tip of the bag.  At Fannie May, all of the candy came to us made from about 20 miles away...usually that day or the day before.  But, you still had to know what the tops meant.  A straight line across the top meant that the candy was a white buttercream inside.  A loop-de-loop meant it was chocolate buttercream inside.  A continuous "V" shape meant it was a maple cream, and so on.  At Boehm's, many of the candies are finished with a shape on top of the candy right after Judy and Amy dip the rolled fondant in chocolate.  They circle around a candy, they lift their finger straight up, they do all sorts of stuff.  One time they let me try my hand at candy dipping before I started my shift.  I tore off a little piece of fondant from a long snake, if you will, rolled it into a round ball, swished my hand in the metal container of chocolate (Judy always does light, and Amy always does dark), rolled the round piece of fondant in the chocolate with one hand, and with that same hand, dropped it onto the wax paper, finishing with whatever design that particular candy got with the chocolate that was left in my hand after dropping it.  Sounded easy, but I certainly had my problems...either I let too much chocolate go on top of the candy so there was no design, or I waited too long to drop it onto the paper, because I was playing with it too long, and then the chocolate cooled down enough so it wouldn't drop from the bottom of my hand to produce a design.   I don't cotton to "not" getting something after awhile, and this was certainly challenging, but moreso, frustrating.  I haven't had the opportunity to practice again, but every time I have the chance, I watch the girls so intently it's almost like I can will myself to perfect it.  It's not easy, and Judy and Amy were the first to tell me this after many, many failed attempts.  But, I love going there, no matter what I do.  Han is the expert at putting chocolate into various molds, Mary runs the shipping end of things, Mary Lee runs the front of the house, or the candy store, DeDe is the packer extraordinaire, Narissa runs the office, and her brother Tyson, now makes the candy, as Monty retired in August.  It's amazing how fast the day goes when you're only there 2 days a week.  But I love it.  As much as a mechanic loves grease on his hands, I love chocolate on mine, and I hope Boehm's will allow me to continue this tradition for many years to come!


Judy dipping, dropping and putting the final touch on a piece of chocolate...too bad I can't remember what it is...


you need to be quick, and precise...


judy dipping cherries in fondant...after that they need to dry, and then they get put on the enrober to be incased in chocolate, then wrapped...


judy, one of "my two girls"


amy, the other half of "my two girls"


me after hand dipping a particular piece of candy


the boxes are dated in red if light chocolate, and black if dark chocolate, then stored on shelves...they never stick around for very long..






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