For more than 50 years, the C Shop has delighted Birch Bay with signature summertime candy. The bright yellow building on Alderson Road and Birch Bay Drive has become a landmark for tourists and residents alike.
The C Shop started in 1971 with Patrick and Patricia Alesse, moving into second-generation ownership with their son Keith and his business partner Saara Kuure. Both schoolteachers, the original owners sought seasonal work to support their young children.
“They decided, ‘Well hey, there’s this summer resort, Birch Bay, just seven miles away,’” says Keith Alesse. “And if they could figure out what kind of business that place needed, and start that business, then they’d have summer jobs for life.”
The two toured seaside towns across the West Coast and discovered that candy shops consistently drew tourists. They learned to make candy without prior experience, and the C Shop was born. It occupied the Shore Acres Resort building until 1979, moving as the Jacobs Landing Condominiums developed.
The C Shop has expanded and consolidated over decades — running a pizza bakery from 1988 to 2020 and starting an online store for off-season orders.
The shop opens on Fridays, weekends, and holiday Mondays starting on Mother’s Day, then every day in summer from Father’s Day to Labor Day.
C Shop Treats
The C Shop’s name references its original selection of goods: “cotton candy, carmel corn, carmel apples, candy, cake donuts, and crafts.” Their stylized “carmel” and “Peanut Butter Yumms” are signature items.
“Carmel is probably our biggest selling candy — it’s a 67-pound batch of candy in the middle of the summertime and we’ll be making two or three of those a week,” says Alesse. “It gets used in a variety of different candies… I think it’s 16 different ones that wind up incorporating it.”
The popular Dream and Nightmare candies cover caramel in white and dark chocolate, respectively. Their homemade butter toffee also fills confections. The C Shop also carries snow cones, Cascade Glacier ice cream, cotton candy, popcorn, cheese corn, peanut brittle, fudge, pastries, and new creations.
Visitors can watch the crew make candy and make conversation as they offer free samples.
“It’s the thing that in my mind differentiates us from some other places where people might get candy,” Alesse says. “You can get some fine, tasty candy at Costco at a much lower price than you can get at the C Shop — but you don’t get that same experience you get from coming here.”
During the off-season, the C Shop opens for select holidays, such as Christmas, and mails out online orders.
“There used to be a time when we were very active at Easter,” says Alesse. “We used to do a lot of wholesale chocolate work; we did molded-chocolate easter bunnies for a whole lot of outlets, including 37 Haggen’s and Top Food places.”
Most years, the store has around 30 crew members keeping up shop.
“We’re trying really hard to make sure it’s a nice, positive place to have your first job or have a seasonal job,” Alesse says. “And the goal is we’ll try and hire people, often when they’re in high school — make it so they can sock away some money for their college fund, develop capabilities, have a good time at it, and hopefully want to come back every summer until they graduate from college.”
With nearly 800 employees over its history, the C Shop still sees early crew members stop to say hello.
“It’s really nice to see human development in action as you start out with someone who’s 16, starting their first job, kind of mousy and unconfident in their abilities and their ability to interact with customers and other people,” says Alesse. “And to just see that person every year — they get to come back, be a stronger, more developed human who is then able to teach other people.”
Making Sweet Memories
While the C Shop is seasonal, it’s created memories that last lifetimes.
“It’s one of the things that’s really fun about being involved in the C Shop: the number of positive memories people have associated with the candy shop that’s been around for more than 50 years,” Alesse says. “You get to hear someone say, ‘Oh, I remember my grandmother bringing me here, and I’m bringing my grandchild here now.’ It’s just heartwarming all the time.”
Patrick and Patricia Alesse have continued to roast coffee and prepare white chocolate. Keith Alesse notes that customers fondly remember seeing them and his Newfoundland dog, who lived 12 years.
“As the community develops and things change around here, we’ll kind of change a bit more,” says Alesse. “There’s more potential to run year-round than there was years ago, when there was nobody who lived in Birch Bay in the wintertime.”