See’s Candies are sensational, as anyone can see

Published Jan 10, 2014 at 2:22 pm (Updated Jan 10, 2014 at 2:22 pm)

It’s easy to see why See’s Famous Old Time Candies are so popular, and See’s has finally made it to the South Hills area. Actually, See’s stimulates more of the senses than just sight, none more so than taste.

Founded in California in 1921, it only took 93 years for the gourmet candies to migrate to Western Pennsylvania. The taste was worth the wait.

A store opened in South Hills Village about six weeks ago, with the formal ribbon cutting and opening Jan. 10.

For those who are not familiar with See’s, the company, purchased from the See family by Warren E. Buffett in 1972, uses only the freshest of ingredients. The products are short on preservatives and long on taste. Gordon McNally, regional sales manager, said the lack of preservatives results in a shorter shelf life, but for the true chocolate lover, quickly consuming the treats is never a problem.

See’s gets its name from the See family, whose matriarch, Mary See, made chocolates and other treats for resort guests in Canada until the family relocated to Southern California in 1919. The company began to widely distribute the candies in 1921.

Today, there are about 200 locations, mainly in the mid-western states, with See’s opening stores locally in South Hills Village and Ross Park Mall. For a number of years, McNally said, See’s operated a kiosk in the malls, but now the company is here to stay.

Sampling is a big part of See’s as an enticement to enter the crisp, clean store decorated almost entirely in black and white. The color theme includes blocks of black and white floor tile that replicate Mary See’s original kitchen.

Like a list of fine wines in a restaurant, See’s has a candy menu with photographs and a brief description of all the candies, grouping the selections into milk or dark chocolate with and without nuts, speciality pieces, truffles and white chocolate. Some of Mary See’s original recipes are still used.

Store manager Melody Marino said women’s tastes always gravitate toward the chocolates and truffles, while the male customers mainly choose chocolates and candies with nuts.

Although known for its chocolates, See’s Candies, as the name implies, makes and sells candies. The peanut brittle and mixed nut selections are amazing.

As the chocolates are sold by the pound, personal selections are packed by hand while, on the opposite side of the rather small store, are prepackaged boxes, nuts, peanut brittle and other goodies.

See’s is also know for its gourmet lollipops and novelty items like foil-wrapped chocolate Santas, Valentine’s hearts, balls and “golden coins.”

McNally said the 1952 “I Love Lucy” episode of Lucy and Ethel working on a conveyor belt in a candy factory was filmed in the See’s California factory and the candy Lucy and Ethel ate and stuffed in their uniforms was See’s.

None of See’s chocolates, fudge or candies are made in the SHV store. And those with a nut allergy may want to gravitate to the gourmet lollipops as the chocolates and candies – many with nuts – are produced on the same machinery. The delicious lollipops, sold separately or boxed, are made in nut-free facilities in flavors like chocolate, butterscotch, vanilla and cafe latte, McNally said.

Although not on display, See’s holds the Guinness Book of World Records record for making the largest lollipop at 7,000-pounds and more than 16-feet tall. The chocolate-flavored lollipop took 12 hours to make and a week to cool, McNally said.

Employees follow the black and white theme in their white uniforms with black accents, and are there to help customers select the various candy. Each employee has a favorite flavor. Jackie Garrett, assistant manager, loves the coconut special, which is angel flake coconut with honey; sales associate Kylee Babish leans toward the coconut special and the raspberry cream; and McNally said he loves them all.

Some truffle flavors are seasonal, like egg nog for Christmas. Thanksgiving was the pecan pie truffle and the spring will bring the strawberry truffle. Year-round truffles in the glass display cases feature lemon, key lime, white mint, pineapple, almond, cafe au lait and dark chocolate chip. Other exotic chocolates include dark California brittle with hard toffee and almonds, Scotchmallow with honey marshmallow and caramel, kona mocha with coffee, chocolate buttercream and toasted coconut, apricot, orange or coconut bon bons, chocolate covered cherries and the Beverly, made with buttercream with sweet vanilla, almonds and walnuts.

For those unable to eat regular fudge, chocolates and other candies, See’s, open during regular mall hours, offers a wide selection of sugar-free delights.

Enjoy.

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