Monday, February 9, 2009

See's Candies and Harley Davidsons

Charles See's first candy store and candy factory was at 135 N. Western Avenue. He opened the place in November 1921, and used a photo of his Mama (Mary See, left) as the face of his new company. Since Charles was using her recipes--and designed his black-and-white tiled store to imitate her kitchen--that must have seemed appropriate.

Charles was actually trained as a pharmacist and switched to selling chocolate when a fire destroyed the two drug stores he owned in Ontario, Canada. He studied the business methods of a very successful Canadian chain of chocolate stores called Laura Secord. Relocating to Pasadena, he built his own business on the Laura Secord model.

In the 1920s, according to, See's began "using distinctive Harley-Davidson motorcycles for deliveries. The motorcycles were fitted with a large sidecar embossed on all sides with the black and white See's logo." That's one in the picture. Also in the 20s, See's began building a big factory on Washington Blvd.

Mary lived into her 80s and died in 1939. By that time, See's Famous Old Time Candies had expanded to San Francisco, where their headquarters is now. They do maintain a factory here in Los Angeles. Charles' son Lawrence took over the business after his Dad's death in 1949, and was the genius who started putting See's shops in all the new shopping malls. According to Wikipedia, See's buys its chocolate from Guittard, and has since the 1950s. Since 1972, See's Candies has been owned by Berkshire Hathaway.

Why blog on this? LA Curbed pointed out last week that developers wanted to tear down the original See's store building on Western and put up a strip mall. They have a great picture of the building as it stands today, covered with signs in Korean. The roof, eaves, and windows are very distinctive though; the building really has not changed that much.

So, preservationist and archivist Charlene Nichols approached the City of Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission and asked them to preserve the building. She came with letters from the See's current VP and many civic organizations, and with a 5-pound box of See's candy, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The commission has agreed to consider the request, but here's what bothers me. As the Times tells it, "They [the commission members] politely turned down the samples of milk almond, vanilla buttercream and maple walnut candies on ethical grounds..."

Let me be clear: there is nothing ethical, or even human, about turning down a free sample of See's vanilla buttercream. I say we vote the bums out. Ok, so they're appointed by the Mayor. He should throw the bums out. No one who turns down See's chocolate can be trusted.

The bums are here, btw. They look like nice people, but so do most aliens before they suck your souls out. Passing on See's chocolate....are they serious?


Gregory said...

Need some help..I just came across some original correspondence from Charles See and what may be his wife "Edelie" traveling together around 1944. Also some pictures and an original letter to Charles from Barrett, Seguin & Co stockbrokers confirming purchase of 50000 shares of Goldhawk Porcupine on 12/4/9144. Is there anybody handleing and kind of history site or museum? my email

Anonymous said...

Nice post! My wife wrote the nomination so I have a little background. Charles See died in 1949 and his wife was named Florence. The nomination is still winding it's way through the Cultural Heritage Commission. Here it is in it's entirety:
Porcupine, the town Charles left for LA, was a gold mining town, so maybe that's what the stock it.
I'll email Gregory the name of the See's archivist. Thanks. Chris Nichols

Vix said...

Thank you, Chris! A mystery enlightened for all of us...except for the shadowy Ederlie.

Bobo said...

Thanks for the blog! It was very useful for my speech about See's Candies!!! said...

The Peanut Brittle makes me shit!