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San Francisco and the Bay Area can tell a love story with sweets. Domingo Ghirardelli got his start selling chocolate to the Gold Rush prospectors 165 years ago; Etienne Guittard set up shop on Sansome Street in 1868; Mary See opened shop for her popular candy stores here in 1936; the first customers at Swenson’s Ice Cream Store got a taste at Union and Hyde in 1948; in Hayward, the Annabelle Candy Company dates from 1950; Burlingame is home to the Museum of Pez Memorabilia; and all roads in Fairfield lead to the Jelly Bean factory. A few more temptation palaces for a sweet tooth are pretty much impossible to resist. If candy doesn’t speak to you, some shops make a darn good fudge.
122 W. Portal Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94122
Some 80 years ago, there were 50 stores in this group serving candy, nuts, popcorn, chocolate and ice cream as Shaw’s expanded into Karmel Corn. The West Portal store is the original, and the last remaining, opened by Douglas Shaw in 1931. Since candy shops with a vintage look are in vogue, it’s worth a trip to visit the real thing behind the cheery red and white striped awning. There’s a slushy machine, kettle corn, cotton candy (piña colada!), fudge and chocolate, plus all kinds of candy to scoop up like chocolate-covered gummi bears, Swedish fish and sour cherry coke bottles. And, as a bonus, get a giant scoop of Mitchell’s ice cream without the queue.
1507 Vallejo St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
San Francisco’s premier candy store is impeccably presented at Polk and Vallejo. More than 150 glass jars, some filled with fine imports, are prettily perched atop shelves lining the shop walls. Did you know that the best licorice comes from the Netherlands and that the French river stones are filled with your choice of almond, marzipan, apricot paste or chocolate? On the domestic front, a nostalgic candy bar best-seller, Goo Goo Clusters, hails from Tennessee. Diane and team impart candy knowledge about those hard-to-find items, including dragées almonds. Get your fix any day of the week, as the shop is open daily 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Russian Hill.
474 Columbus Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94133
“Welcome to scrumdiddlyumptiousness,” is Z Cioccolato’s tagline. Here in the heart of North Beach, a unique re-purposing for wine barrels is displayed; they’re chock full to the rim with salt water taffy. Z Cioccolato is a favorite stop on several foodie walking tours, where chewy candy competes with the house made fudge for top billing. Samples are on offer of the 50 flavors of taffy and 65 kinds of gourmet fudge with knockout selections like bacon fudge and cabernet dark and cheesecake swirl. Don’t overlook the licorice selection, two dozen Jelly Bean flavors, oversized gummi bears and lots of blasts from the past: candy cigarette, anyone? Bag a free caramel popcorn treat with every $5 purchase.
1166 Howard Ave.
Burlingame, CA 94010
A 21st century Bay Area candy tradition began in 2003 when the original Powell’s Sweet Shoppe opened in Windsor. Three words describe these Willy Wonka-themed places: the candy wall. It’s packed to the rafters. It’s designed as an old fashioned retail experience, complete with a Candy Land board game and enough Pez dispensers to have a different one for every week of the year. Fill your basket with an alphabet of old school nostalgic selections like Abba Zaba, Big Hunk, Chuckles and Dots, or take an up-to-date approach and request gluten-free, kosher candy or vegan candies. Owner Julia suggests that if you’d like a list of candy from a particular era for a party, they’ve got it.
301 Hartz Ave., Suite 109
Danville, CA 94526
Get some interactive fun with your candy store visit. Step in, if you dare, but expect the doormat to make a comment. In you go for the Jelly Bean challenge, featuring eight of the worst-tasting ones ever, to attempt your win at a 20-percent discount and your name on the wall of fame (Sweet Sweet chooses the flavors, such as rotten egg and moldy cheese). The owner aims to bring out the kid in all ages with her nostalgic candy selection, toy section and gum ball machine.