Instead of reaching for an ordinary box of chocolates this Valentine’s Day, we recommend a multitude of local chocolate-makers who create each confection with a little extra love.
Boehm’s Candies & Chocolate
The beloved chocolate confections shop has been ingrained in Issaquah’s tapestry since 1956, when founder Julius Boehm moved his operations from the Seattle area to the forested foothills of the Eastside. Boehm, a 1924 Austrian Olympic runner, immigrated to the Pacific Northwest in 1941 after fleeing Hitler’s reign.
Boehm and the current candy-shop owner, Bernard Garbusjuk, bonded over their similar immigration experiences, and Garbusjuk worked with Boehm for 10 years before his death in 1981. Garbusjuk followed the footsteps of his Austrian ancestors as a candy maker and underwent intensive culinary training in Germany. Step through the quaint doors of the shop to find dozens of handcrafted sweets, from classic sea salt and caramel chocolate boxes to bars etched in the shape of Washington state. For those who love digging into the process, Boehm’s offers chocolate-making classes that include a tour of the factory and the adjacent chalet where Boehm lived, and a guided session with participants making more than a pound of chocolate treats to take home.
Also on the property is a replica of a 12th-century Switzerland chapel, featuring a re-creation of Michelangelo’s Creation of Man. The chapel was a vision of Boehm that came to fruition shortly before his death, and is reserved for weddings and tours. Boehm’s Candies & Chocolate is a truly special landmark in Issaquah, with no end in sight. Garbusjuk is passing the business on to his two children, who are learning the company from the ground up.
The doors to Fran’s Chocolates in Bellevue and Seattle are like the entrance to heaven. Bite-size chocolate truffles are delicately wrapped in paper foil, beckoning onlookers to have a taste. Fran Bigelow’s name has become synonymous with exceptional chocolate; it was a trip to Paris that inspired her affinity for “pure” and “simple” flavors. Bigelow opened her first patisserie and chocolate shop in 1982, and is credited for “sparking the artisan chocolate renaissance in the United States” some time later.
“We make chocolate. Amazing, delicious, mind-bending, wonderful chocolate,” according to the founder of Theo chocolate, and we could leave it at that as a perfect summation of the delectable company. But its origin story is truly inspiring. Founder Joe Whinney first started exploring organic cocoa beans in 1994, and fell in love with the people farming the land in Central America and Africa. In 2006, Whinney created Theo chocolate and brought the first organic chocolate to the United States. Theo’s mission is to “create a more beautiful, compassionate, and enduring world by responsibly making delicious and inspiring products for everyone.”
Erin Andrews embarked on a family trip to Belize and showed her daughters cacao farms. She fell in love with chocolate and launched the first iteration of her chocolate company in Belize. As of now, she’s been in the business for eight years and recently moved into a new location as the first chocolate factory at Pike Place Market.