C Shop celebrates 35 years in business
By Tara Nelson
Justin McLeod’s fondest memories of Birch Bay began more than 20 years ago when he and his sister would ride their bikes from Birch Bay State Park to the C Shop for snowcones, cinnamon bears and jelly beans.
of Vancouver, B.C., said her family started visiting Birch
Bay more than 25 years ago and the C Shop was her “best memory.”
Such are only a few of the stories that have been submitted to C Shop owners Pat and Patricia Alesse, who are celebrating their 35th year in business this month.
What’s more is the restaurant and candy shop’s recipes haven’t changed much since their original opening.
“Customers that haven’t been here for a long time are expecting the same treats they enjoyed 20 years ago,” said Pat. “That’s why we call them timeless confections.”
Inside the historic Birch Bay building, red and white checkered tiles and antique restaurant equipment give the feel of an authentic soda shop, complete with a 1917 Edison Electric brick oven, a 1914 fire mixer for heating and stirring confections, and a 1950s Old Royal industrial refridgerator that Pat salvaged, from the former Alaskan Packers business in Semiahmoo.
“I pulled it out from the wall and it said the warranty expired in 1957,” he said. “But it still works great as a cold table.”
But the equipment isn’t the only thing that is antique. Caramel for their hand-dipped green Granny Smith caramel apples is still made from an old recipe Patricia found while in college, and that uses heavy whipping cream and condensed milk. Patricia said she has since reduced the amount of cream to as little as possible without interfering with the caramel’s rich, buttery flavor.
“We had this old building and it would be silly to try to make it look modern,” Pat said. “Part of it is that we have old equipment to work with, so yeah, we do things now that fit that.”
The dough for their hand-tossed pizza crust comes from an old recipe from his uncle’s pizza restaurant in Buffalo, New York and is made from flour ground on-site the same day.
“It’s all hand written out in detail,” Pat said. “I just can’t tell you which nephew stole it from them.”
Snowcones are made with syrup the Alesse’s make from scratch using a simple sugar syrup and flavors such as orange, blue raspberry, lime and cherry.
The Alesses moved to Blaine from Puyallup in 1964 to accept teaching positions at Blaine elementary and junior high schools. The couple opened the candy shop in 1971 near Jacob’s Landing to supplement their income during the summer.
Patricia said they had considered a number of businesses such as an archery range, a bumper car track or a gift shop but settled on the idea of a candy shop because of the low entry cost and because it seemed that was the only thing Birch Bay was lacking.
In 1979, they relocated the shop to its current location on the corner of Blaine Road and Birch Bay Drive. They opened the cafe and bakery two years later.
“So many people try to copy what other businesses are doing rather than trying to seek out and fill a niche,” Pat said. “But we get people who are gone for 20 years and they come back and we’re still here. The way it was is the way it is and the way it will be.”
Patricia also said they will continue to accept stories, which will be compiled into an ongoing memory book for customers to read during their visit.
The C Shop cafe is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and the candy shop is open from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. They can be reached at 371-2070.