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Shifting Seasons October 12, 2011

Posted by Saara in Admin, Behind the Scenes, Café, Candy.
1 comment so far

We made it to the end of another C Shop season!

The Café closed on Labor Day and we were slinging pizzas to the very end. A couple of hours past the very end even! We had an excellent crew this summer and all of their hard work really paid off.

Molly’s Nanaimo bars were a big hit with the customers and also with the crew. It was not intentional to have them priced the same as a “break treat”, but I’m sure that worked out well for most of us. 😉 We’re excited that Magnum and Sadie are in Seattle right now furthering their culinary educations. We wish them the very best wherever this new road takes them. Selfishly we hope that the road leads back home to their C Shop family, but we also know that many more exciting opportunities await. As is her style, Maria managed to keep everything flowing.

The Candy Shop closed on this Canadian Thanksgiving Monday. We sold everything nearly down to the walls! Martha and Vicki managed to keep the shop humming along smoothly all season. Our big birthday bash this summer was a success. The 1971 prices were much appreciated by customers and lines for favorites were out the door. Another new favorite for many is seafoam and Keith got the formula nailed down finally so it’s now one of our regular homemade candies.

The biggest new event this summer was the Birch Bay Music Festival to support WeSnip. Thanks to Tammy Pearce of The Bay Cafe and her great organizing skills, it was a well-attended and very fun day for everyone and profitable for WeSnip. We look forward to raising even more money for this good cause next August 4th. Mark your calendars!

Meanwhile we’ve hardly been resting on our laurels. Saara attended Kneading Conference West in Mount Vernon and then everyone flew off to Houston for RCI’s Fall Regional Institute. Then it was off to the FSA Seattle Food Show and, well, there’s a NW Chocolate Festival just around the corner. You can bet all that has inspired creative thinking for next year’s goodies.

Besides post-processing photos from various conferences and conventions which I’ll share on here soon, we’re gearing up for the big remodeling season. Keith has plans for the Café floor and there’ll be lots of new paint again. We got one new cooler in place and have plans for some other new equipment. Oh yeah, there’s a certain bread slicer that should certainly be up and going by next summer too. 🙂

Thank you and my endless gratitude to everyone who worked so hard at The C Shop this year. We’ll be missing some of you next season, but we’re also looking forward to having many of you back for another summer of fun!

Finally a big thank you to our wonderful customers! You are what makes all this worthwhile. We appreciate our long-time regulars who have been coming in for generations, our new regulars who have just discovered us, our seasonal visitors who make an annual pilgrimage,  the occasional tourist who could only grace us once, and those of you who have yet to come in. Without all of you, there’d be no C Shop so thank you for keeping us around in this difficult economy. We truly appreciate your patronage and will continue to do what we can to earn your business.


The C Shop Way March 19, 2011

Posted by Saara in Admin, Behind the Scenes, Community.
1 comment so far

You’re only young once, but you can be immature forever. ~ Germaine Greer

As we ease into a new season, it’s a good time to reflect a bit before the busy-ness of summer hits.

This summer The C shop will be celebrating its 40th birthday. Milestones are a good time to think about where we’ve been and where we’re going. It’s clear that The C Shop has been part of the Birch Bay community for a long time and has hopefully brought a little bit of brightness and joy to everyone that visits. It’s been an incredible labor of love and Patrick and Patricia Alesse’s hard work and dedication shine through in all aspects of what The C Shop has to offer.

As we move into the second generation, we intend to work just as tirelessly to keep The C Shop relevant and ensure that we don’t lose any of the charm that makes it so special. We love hearing stories from people whose grandmothers had a beach cabin and would bring them to the shop for candy and ice cream. Now those same folks bring their own children and are creating another batch of wonderful memories.

We’re going to be introducing some new technology to make sure that we keep up with modern life and modern kids keep up with us. We’ve had free WiFi for quite a few years, but this year we’re getting a new booster antenna so the signal should be even better. Over the winter, we’ve been updating our profiles on Yelp and Urbanspoon. Our Facebook page has over 200 “likes” and each post often gets over 500 impressions. There’s this blog and we occasionally even tweet. There are other things brewing too, but those announcements will just have to wait.

More visibly, we’re continuing to improve our infrastructure. At about 40 is when most people finally realize their mortality and start watching their diets and exercise a little bit more. Businesses should do the same although not as many are fortunate enough to reach this anniversary. While The C Shop business might be middle-aged, our building is certainly elderly having been built in the 1890’s! She’s got good bones though, so there’s no reason to worry about the next 40 years with proper care.

So how do we ensure that The C Shop survives these economic hard times? Many great restaurants, bakeries and other businesses are closing their doors nearly every day. This has been fortunate for us in allowing us to get great deals on some sorely needed equipment. Our joy in finding the bargains is tempered by sadness for the businesses that have closed. We are all better off with more small businesses in operation and thriving. Both The C Shop and the Bay Cafe are better off when both businesses are successful. The relationship is truly more cooperation than competition.

We’re going to continue tweaking our products and our prices. Some products will have to go up in price, but some will come down as we find a better way to make them or a better supplier. For example, we’ll be making all the chocolate-dipped seafoam in house so we’ll have a better quality fresher product at no added cost. We’re cross-training and having more crew that can work both candy and cafe. We have so many wonderful employees that come back year after year to help us and they are truly our greatest asset. They are what makes working at The C Shop so much fun for us and we hope that all your interactions with our crew are positive for you.


Emily with her PollyAnna Sunshine award


Which brings me around to the inspiration for this post. I was reading The Costco Connection the other morning and saw this description of “The Costco Way”:

“… Costco is premised on some of the very values that run counter to so many of the trends of recent years: offering a fair deal for members, treating suppliers with respect, giving employees decent wages and a good place to work, striving for constant improvement, avoiding the self-negating quest for perfection, serving the local community, being mindful of the global implications of what we do and never forgetting to have fun along the way.”

That really struck a chord with me and it is a good summary of the decent way to operate a business. Costco is a large corporation, but Jim Sinegal is a prime example of how to be successful in business and not lose sight of your values. Instead of being a fat cat CEO, his salary is 10 times that of the average employee. They’re not perfect either, but they seem to have that constant improvement thing down.

The C Shop is a small corporation, but we have values that we share with Costco. Those values are one of the reasons that they are one of our suppliers.

An even bigger business inspiration is Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They are celebrating 29 years of service this year and they are much more than a deli. We’re a lot alike since we both have lots of irons in the fire and have a large variety of offerings. They’re a deli, we’re a deli; they have a bakehouse, we have a baker; they are a coffee roaster, Patrick roasts our coffee beans; they make candy, we make candy; they have fun, we have fun! What’s different? They’ve got 500 employees and we have about 50. We also don’t do anywhere near as much business as they do, which is good. 🙂

However, what they do have is an awesome vision!

Zingerman’s Mission Statement
We share the Zingerman’s experience selling food that makes you happy giving service that makes you smile in passionate pursuit of our mission showing love and care in all our actions to enrich as many lives as we possibly can.

Zingerman’s Guiding Principles
Great Food
Great Service
A Great Place to Shop & Eat
Solid Profits
A Great Place to Work
Strong Relationships
A Place to Learn
An Active Part of Our Community

Those values are something for us at The C Shop to aspire to and we already do well in many of those ways, but we know we can do better for us and for you. We’re working on our own mission statement and guiding principles for what we want The C Shop to be now and in the future. We strive to make The C Shop a fun place to work where customers and employees are valued.

And we certainly try to have fun along The C Shop Way!

The Bunnies Are Coming! February 28, 2011

Posted by Saara in Behind the Scenes, Easter.
1 comment so far

Yes, it’s finally that time of year! While parts of Washington are being blanketed by snow, we’ve started production on white Easter bunnies. After our initial run of white bunnies, we’ll be moving on to making milk and dark chocolate bunnies. So many bunnies and so little time.

We haven’t been idle while waiting for the bunnies to start running. If you’ve driven by lately, you’ve certainly seen the new roof. What you haven’t seen is the new ceiling in the cafe.

The old ceiling was stained from many years of use and an occasional water leak. We also had inadequate lighting for the sandwich and pizza make line.

Ceiling Before

A “before” look at the ceiling with Keith mugging for the camera.

Now the ceiling is freshly painted and we’ve installed 4 banks of fluorescents over the work area and arranged the chandeliers over the seating area. It is so much brighter now!

Ceiling After

The new ceiling and a couple of our bundled up bunnies.

As you can see, we didn’t have the time to re-tile the floors as planned, but that project has just moved to next winter’s list. Can’t take the risk of getting bored or being able to go on vacation over the off season. 😉

We hope you are appreciating our incremental improvements. Many of our projects are restricted to that brief time in between Christmas candy and January/February when Easter production starts. It also happens to be bitterly cold usually and it’s challenging to get paint to dry in an unheated space. Keith used an oil-based vapor barrier primer that was supposed to dry in about 6 hours, but it took 6 days!

Even with all the constraints, we’re having a lot of fun watching it take shape. I’m chomping at the bit to get the final coat of paint on the cafe bathrooms and Keith is working on new controls for the 1916 Edison Electric pizza oven. In between, we’re cranking out bunnies as fast as we can.

In my next post, I’ll show you some more behind the scenes images of the bunny farm.