See’s Candies located on 60 West 8th Street (near 6th Avenue) in the West Village has been open since the end of January 2017. We had a chance to sit down and talk with Bill Rhodes, the owner of this charming old-time candy shop.
Charles See founded See’s Candies in 1921 in Los Angeles. Charles originally owned an apothecary but his mother’s chocolate was so delicious that he started selling it in the store and eventually people bought more chocolate than aspirin so that was the start of the company.
All of the chocolate and candy we sell today is made exactly the same way as it was in 1921. Nothing has changed. In fact the entire store is gluten free because everything is exactly as it was in 1921, when people didn’t use any fillers in anything.
It is very cosmopolitan today to have this type of candy because there are no fillers in it whatsoever.
Even during the great wars when there were rations, Mr. See insisted on using quality ingredients and insisted that his mother’s recipes remain unchanged. It was always the best ingredients, without compromise. And that is why the product has always tasted just as delicious as it did in 1921.
The chocolate itself has no wax or paraffin in it so that is why it tastes so creamy and delicious. Most other chocolate companies add an agent that will help make it set more quickly or so that it doesn’t melt in warm weather. When it comes to our dark chocolate, people who don’t even like dark chocolate, like ours because we actually add vanilla to the mix.
The Bordeaux (seen in Bill's hands in photo above) has been one of our best sellers for many years. It is a brown sugar buttercream and drenched in either a delicious milk chocolate or dark chocolate with sprinkles on top.
I picked this neighborhood because I really wanted to recreate for New York what a true old-fashioned chocolate store would have been like in 1921. The West Village and West 8th Street in particular for some reason has something that pulls your heart strings of old New York. There is just something…a feeling to West 8th Street.
I wanted a store with not only the best product but with amazing customer service and people dressed in uniforms that would have been applicable back in 1921. I really wanted the store itself to give the image of going back in time.
When I worked with the architect when first designing the store, I gave him a picture of the original See’s Candy Store in Los Angeles and said to him, “I want you to recreate this in New York.” And he did. He used the finest marble floors and countertops and even was able to use the original light fixtures that had been inside a See’s Candy Store in the 1940s.
The fixtures were in a storage warehouse in San Francisco and when I told the company my plans to recreate the original store, they gave them to me. The architect even insisted that the air conditioning vents were hidden because in the original store, there was no air conditioning. So if you stand inside this store, it’s really like you are taken back in time.
We have over 100 varieties of chocolate in the store and in the candy counter where you can pick and choose whatever you want, there are over 80 varieties. We usually have special flavors of chocolate or lollipops for each season. The flavors change with the season and with the different holidays such as Christmas, Valentines, Halloween etc. The store really gets transformed each season by the product that enters it. People really look forward to the change in seasons so that they can see what new flavors come in.
The boxed candy we sell is also consistent to what was originally offered. The boxes even say on the side, Quality without compromise” because that was Mr. See’s slogan.
We get all of chocolates and candies shipped to us from our manufacturing facility on the West Coast once a week. It is over-nighted via air freight. The chocolate we sell is meant to be eaten right away. This isn’t the kind of product that is meant to be bought and given as a present in a month or two. Our chocolates use only the freshest ingredients and taste best when they are eaten right away.
We encourage everyone to stop by See's Candies and say hi to Bill and the staff and sample some of their chocolates and candies as we did. We absolutely loved their "Chocolate and Variety" box which has a mix of some of their most popular milk, dark, and white chocolate soft centers, crunchy nuts and smooth caramels. We particularly enjoyed their Kona Mocha, a white chocolate with a milk chocolate and coffee soft center with toasted coconut. They also just received their new Halloween flavors! Not only did we love the chocolates and candy they sell but really appreciate how so much attention was paid to the design of this store (both exterior and interior). When stepping into it, we really felt transported back in time.