Delicious reasons to visit the Roca almond factory

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Tacoma, Washington has a long history of candy making and in fact Mars Inc. (Snickers, M & Ms, Mars and many more), one of the largest candy companies in the world, got its start in the city. In 1911, founder Frank C. Mars began making sweets in his kitchen, but the business failed due to competition from Brown & Haley, maker of Almond Roca, established in 1912.

A small family business, the Johnson Candy Company, started in 1925 making chocolates using vintage chocolate molds.

The Brown & Haley Company was founded by Harry L. Brown and JC Haley in 1912. Their Tacoma factory (the only one) has been making candy for over 100 years. Almond Roca was created in 1923 after much trial and error to develop the perfect candy. This delicious combination of almonds, buttery caramel dipped in chocolate and rolled in more almonds is now exported to more than 63 countries around the world. Beautifully wrapped in gold foil and placed in boxes or pink boxes, it is now the largest gift candy exported to the United States. Roca is now made in a variety of flavors, expanding the range. The company is also known for their mountain bars which have a creamy center of vanilla, peanut butter or cherry and are covered in peanuts and chocolate.

The Johnson Candy Company started in 1925 with founder Russell Johnson selling chocolates made from vintage chocolate molds. He bought recipes from a former confectioner and, together with his wife, Irene, started a family business that has stood the test of time. Their son Ron took over the business in 1963. Now that the third generation runs the business, William Johnson holds the same high standards as his father and grandfather and continues the legacy. Ron still comes by every day, and you can find him dipping ice cream bars or making bunches of peanuts.

This is great candy and my new gift shop. One of its best sellers is Open Face Caramel which combines a rich butterscotch with toasted California almonds. The squares are then dipped in milk or dark chocolate. The caramel is soft and just firm enough to hold its shape. Another favorite is the mint squares which are an upscale take on an after dinner mint. Rich dark chocolate surrounds a square of creamy mint candy.

Here are a few reasons why you should visit these iconic candy makers in Tacoma.

Peggy cleveland

Cool neon lights and iconic buildings

The Brown and Haley factory building is located in downtown Tacoma. The building is painted white and adorned with a bright pink neon sign. The structure is over 100 years old. In front of the factory is a round kiosk-type building that was once the Seattle World’s Fair ticket book. On an interesting note, Elvis Presley filmed It happened at the Universal Exhibition and he was in this building to keep away from the crowds between takes.

The Johnson Candy Company is located in the Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma and was built in 1949. Famous local architect Silas E. Nelsen designed the building. It still serves as a store and factory for this family business. A classic neon sign sits atop the building and draws attention to it.

Exterior view of Brown & Haley Outlet Store
Peggy cleveland

Family owned

The Brown & Haley company is still owned by the Haley family while the Johnson Candy company is still owned by the Johnson family. It makes a difference when your last name is on the sign. Both families carry on the tradition of making good quality candies made from the freshest ingredients. Members of the Haley family are still actively involved in the business. The Johnson Candy Company is smaller and the candies are handcrafted by William “Bill” Johnson and his father Ron who still comes every day to make candy.

Brown & Haley's Candy
Peggy cleveland

Electrical outlets

Brown & Haley has two outlets in Tacoma. My favorite is the charming Seattle World’s Fair ticket booth. This pretty building is located across from the factory and sells a variety of Brown & Haley products at heavily discounted prices. Look for the plaque inside that marks Elvis Presley’s visit on August 9, 1962. Whenever I have visiting guests, I always take them to the store to buy souvenirs. There are so many great gift options. The most popular is a rectangular-shaped tin can with popular attractions such as Mount Rainier, the Space Needle, the Brown and Haley Factory, and a Washington State Ferry on the cover. If you just want to eat the candy, the outlet sells factory seconds. These are candies that just haven’t been cut out in terms of appearance, but still delicious.

Pro tip: If you like to bake or bake candy, you can buy a 10-pound plate of milk or dark chocolate for $ 30. It’s so much better than grocery store baking chocolate and a lot cheaper. It can be difficult to work with such a large block of chocolate, but it is worth it for the good quality of this chocolate. Be sure to visit the Brown & Haley website for delicious recipes using Brown & Haley products as ingredients.

The view from Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood, home to many local businesses
The view from Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, home to many local businesses (JA Uppendahl / Shutterstock.com)

Support local businesses

I favor visits to local businesses when traveling. He keeps my tourist dollars in the local community. One of my favorite things about it is meeting the locals who make a city so interesting. I often find things to see and do recommended by business owners or community workers. One of the intriguing things about Tacoma is that I often come across these pockets of stores and restaurants. It’s almost like small towns within a big city. Hilltop is one of those areas. As the name suggests, it sits on top of a hill just above downtown that overlooks much of Tacoma. It is one of the oldest residential areas in the city. Check with the historic preservation office for walking tour maps. After visiting the Johnson Candy Company, I was surprised to see one of my favorite ice cream shops, Ice Cream Social, as well as a variety of interesting restaurants. There are over 50 businesses in the Hilltop area. For more information on exploring these lesser-known neighborhoods, visit Explore Tacoma to learn more.

Mount Rainier, Tacoma and Commencement Bay
Mount Rainier and Tacoma (Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com)

Tacoma

The city has a slogan – “Mountain, city, sea”. You can spend a morning hiking Mount Rainier, the afternoon kayaking in Puget Sound followed by dinner and an evening at the theater. So besides the candy, there is tons to see and do in this area. Take a visit to the Johnson Candy Company and explore the Hilltop District. When you visit the Brown & Haley store, add some time to explore downtown Tacoma. The Tacoma Museum District offers six great museums, each with its own unique experience. Discover the history of the region. Find out why art glass is so popular as you explore the Glass Museum and Chihuly Glass Bridge. Four of these museums are within walking distance of each other on Pacific Ave. Across the street is a variety of shops and restaurants. See Tacoma Travel for more information.

Pro tip: If you cannot visit the stores, Brown & Haley and Johnson Candy Company offer online ordering of their products.

If you have the opportunity to visit these two stops, check out the other attractions in the area:


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