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Bright's Candies

Walla Walla's Candy Shop

Traditions that each generation remembers from their childhood add to any city's sense of community. Bright's Candies is that kind of tradition for Walla Walla.

Opened on Main Street in 1934, it was called Russell Candy Company and owned by the Russell family. This was where the peanut brittle and Divinity started. Fax Duncan purchased the candy store in the '50s and kept it for around 15 years. It was bought and sold a couple of times in the following years, then the Bright family stepped up in the early '70s. They changed the name to Bright's Candies. As always, candy was made on site, and other products were brought in to add to the fun.

Paul Jenes making chocolate

In 1996, Paul and Tiffany Jenes purchased the store and became the sixth family owners. Tiffany grew up in Walla Walla, remembered the store, and went to school with the Bright kids. Her parents, who still live in Walla Walla, mentioned to Tiffany and her husband Paul that Bright's was for sale. It was a few years after they graduated from the University of Washington, they were 25 years old and tossing around the idea of having a service business. This, of course, had nothing to do with Paul's oceanography major but, as it turns out, the science courses have come in handy. "We decided right away that we wanted to do it, but it took about six months to put it all together," Paul recalls.

The store was kind of hidden in the back of a space on 1st Street and was just 15-feet-wide. "At the time, the street didn't have many food places; it was things like shoe repair. It's much more vibrant now, but in 2005, we moved to our current location, which gave us a lot of improvements: more space to bring additional products in; 30 feet of outside seating in front, plus some inside seating; and an expanded kitchen. And we're much more visible than we used to be," says Paul. This is the fourth location for the store.

Along with the original brittle and Divinity, they've added a lot of new candies over the past 20 years, plus adapted some of the older recipes, like the caramel. "We still use the copper bowls for caramel, and an 18" metal bunny mold for Easter. Metal molds used to be common, but plastic molds are easier to work with," explains Paul. "You can see any defect before the process is finished and fix it. New products sometimes come from our vacations. We go into every chocolate shop when we're traveling and might see something that makes us say 'that would be fun to do!' And sometimes it comes from something we're already doing. We were making salted caramels as well as truffles. We decided to make salted caramel truffles and now they're one of our biggest sellers. Businesses will sometimes come to us and ask for something, so we'll create an item they can either give out at events or sell in tasting rooms or retail shops. We're making coffee truffles for a local roasting company, using their coffee, and just made truffles for Canoe Ridge." They've also started making gold-brushed truffles for Chateau Ste. Michelle. "The nice thing is that people try these at Ste. Michelle, then order them from us for themselves." Orders can be placed online or called in.

They have three chocolate tempering machines, the first purchased in 1998. "That's kind of a marker for me that says we felt confident enough in our decision to put money into the business." At Christmas, they'll go through 100 pounds of product per day. The newer machines are now the workhorses, but the 1998 machine gets pressed into service on holidays. Dark chocolate is the big seller year-round, but at Easter the first machine handles the demand for milk chocolate. Top sellers year round tend to be the salted caramel truffles, caramel turtles, popcorn, and ice cream. Popcorn is understandable: the machine vents the aroma right onto Main Street. They buy three different brands of ice cream. "That just happened over time. We've found flavors we like best from different makers and buy those. Why do something for convenience instead of getting what's best? It's much more fun to say, 'we think this is best' and go with that."

Take some time to go through the shop, there's a lot there: Italian sodas, milkshakes, malts, Burwood root beer on tap, kids' shiny rings, stuffed toys, gifts (Tiffany is the giftware buyer, does the displays, and works with Paul on new ideas), specialty candy boxes, classic candy boxes, single pieces, marshmallow items, toffee, nuts, outside candy (like Theo bars).

"Buying the store was absolutely the right decision for us, no regrets. We're comfortable with what we do yet challenged to always think of ways to improve: recipes, products, expansion, location, equipment. And it's fun. When a new person comes in and realizes we make candy here, that it's not just brought in and put in a display case, they're excited. They can see the chocolate machines through the window, and candies being made. Even people who've been in before might come in during a holiday and see empty shelves because we've sold so much. They'll ask when we'll get more in, and we get to say, no, we'll make it for you now!"

Bright's Candies, Inc.
11 E Main Street
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Photos courtesy of Bright's Candies

Connie Adams/June 2018

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