Makena Poulos dips fresh strawberries, apples and pretzels every morning before work at Kara Chocolates. Surrounded by hundreds of milk chocolate truffles, hard candy lollipops, dark chocolate coconut mounds and assorted fudge, Makena made a goal in her nutrition class to abstain from chocolate for one month. Two weeks in, she had a few lapses near Valentine’s Day but she continues her diet from chocolate for the remaining month.
“I have had two slip-ups,” Poulos said. “It’s really hard because we can eat whatever we want while working here.”
Candy shops are more than just boxed chocolates and hard candy imported from neighboring states. Kara Chocolates offers a local selection of all its candy, including fresh fudge, caramel and chocolate-dipped treats.
“Sometimes I catch myself cutting up a slice and eating fudge,” Poulos said.
One of Poulos’ favorite parts about working at a modern-day Wonka factory is the amount of creativity involved. Not only does she make candy but she assembles gift baskets, designs beautiful bows and sells new miniature cakes.
“They taste like the best little piece of heaven,” Poulos said of the mini-cakes.
Kara Chocolates is not the only local candy store near Provo. There are many local candy shops in the Provo and Orem area.
Mrs. Cavanaugh’s Chocolate Factory
Marie Cavanaugh started baking treats in her home in South Dakota, until her friends and family suggested her talent for baking was too good to go unnoticed. The business originated in Utah in 1964 and has since become a well-renowned chocolate shop. There are six store locations in Utah, one of them being in the University Mall.
Candy shops recently had one of their busiest days of the year on Valentine’s Day.
“We just had our huge Valentine’s day extravaganza,” said Sarah Davis, an employee of Mrs. Cavanaugh’s, “and that was really crazy. Like, I can’t believe how much people will drop just for a box of chocolates.”
Passion among faithful customers is not a rare entity for Mrs. Cavanaugh’s candy shop.
“There are a lot of people that will come out from Vernal … and they will make a specific stop here,” Davis said.
The business is still run by the family and Mrs. Cavanaugh continues to surprise customers with new products.
They have a wide assortment of chocolates, suckers bigger than your head, mints nicknamed “temple mints,” and the new raspberry lemonade chocolate that came in three weeks ago. Mrs. Cavanaugh’s has candy for all ages and preferences.
“We do sugarless so we can cater to diabetics,” Davis said.
Founded in 1987 and currently owned by two brothers, Kara Chocolates’ main product is its classic Kara Mint Truffle, or the BYU truffle, as many have come to know it by.
“What we are known for is our mint truffle,” the manager of Kara Chocolates and retired BYU professor Susan Boren said. “The BYU truffle is our truffle.”
Kara Chocolates is also nationally renowned for its brownie mix.
“This was rated the best brownie mix of all the brownie mixes in the world,” Boren said. “Just don’t ask for the calorie count because you don’t want to know.”
From personally decorated chocolate truffle hearts to freshly dipped chocolate covered fruit, Kara Chocolates offers a variety of freshly made products for their customers. Homemade fudge is one of the personal favorites, with flavors varying from cookies and cream to rocky road.
“It takes all day to make the fudge,” Boren said of the couple times a week she bakes it.
They also have fondue sets, gift baskets and humorous hostess aprons labeled with sayings like “Will work for chocolate, pay up front.”
Unlike Poulos, Boren has been around chocolate long enough to be able to resist its allures.
“Oh, sugar gets old after awhile,” she responded, laughing, when asked if she gets tempted by the treats around her.
Susan Martin has worked at See’s Candies for 40 years, five days a week. Starting out seasonal, she worked her way to a management position. This old-fashioned, black-and-white candy shop has been in business since 1921 but has only been in Orem for 30 years.
“Our customer base is very widespread, from little kids to elderly people,” Martin said. “Everybody seems to like chocolate.”
Unlike other candy shops whose finest business day is Valentine’s Day, See’s’ busiest holiday is Christmas.
With only two full time employees and five or six part-time for non-holiday seasons, around Christmas See’s had 25 employees working around the clock to supply the demand for chocolate and candy.
“We have over 100 different individual kinds of candies,” Martin said.
Martin has tried them all. Her favorite is the cashew brittle toffee.
Unlike Kara, all of See’s candy is made in two kitchens in California, one in Los Angeles and the other in South San Francisco.
In Utah there are five See’s Candies stores, the closest one being in University Mall.
Similar to Mrs. Cavanaugh, Mary See started the See’s Candies Company within the walls of her own home. Her sons were so impressed with her chocolate that they took her recipes and started a business in Southern California with the hope of becoming a successful candy shop. See’s continues to live up to its motto, “Quality without compromise.”