If you’re visiting Issaquah, Washington, you need to stop into Boehm’s Candies. Your sweet tooth will thank you.
For more help planning your trip to the PNW, check out all of our posts about Washington.
If you’ve been around Drugstore Divas for a while, you know that I love chocolate. I will eat it, in some form, every day (with the exception of when I give it up for Lent). So, when I was planning my trip to Issaquah and I found out about an over 60-year-old chocolate shop in town, I had to go.
If you’re planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest and passing through Issaquah, you should go too.
Boehm’s Candies: Everything you need to know
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Boehm’s Candies is the namesake of Julius Boehm — who has a very interesting biography.
Julius was born in Vienna in 1897 and raised by his an Austrian piano maker father and a Swiss concert pianist stepmother. His parents’ houseguests included Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini and conductor Arturo Toscanini (who, fun fact, has the same wedding anniversary as me and Pete … just 117 years earlier than us).
You would think Julius would follow in his parents’ footsteps and pursue music. But you’re reading about his chocolate shop, so you know that’s not the case.
He did apprentice his father in the piano-making business, but he also visited his grandfather in Switzerland where he learned to make confections and to ski. (Actually, I’m not 100% sure if he learned to ski there or home in Austria, but it’s a better transition for my sentence if he learned both there. Anyway … ), Julius learned to make candies and to ski; both things would become very important to his future.
When he was around 40, he skied from his home in Austria, over the Silvretta Mountains, to Switzerland to escape being drafted into the German Army.
He went from Switzerland to Spain to Seattle (with a stint in New York between those last two). He opened his first United States-based chocolate shop in Seattle with his friend George Tedlock. Julius used the knowledge he learned from his grandfather to make the chocolates, tweaking it with help from candymaker Cecil Hall to appeal to Americans.
While there, someone mentioned Issaquah had scenery similar to Switzerland, which (if you’ve ever been to Seattle, you’ll know) the Emerald City doesn’t have. So Julius and George packed up and moved the 17-ish miles to Issaquah.
The shop in Issaquah was designed as an Edelweiss chalet, the first Alpine chalet in the Northwest, complete with a gorgeous sculpture of St. Florian, pouring an (empty) bucket of water onto a replica of the chalet.
Walking onto the property feels like walking into a Disney-fied Switzerland, in the fact that it feels a little out of place and a little bit like it was dropped there for novelty. Of course, it is made as Julius intended, but it feels like it would be better near Leavenworth, a Bavarian-styled village in the Cascade Mountain, about two hours East of Issaquah, that really leans into its German theme.
Then again, maybe Julius wouldn’t like that.
Anyway. The Issaquah property has a retail shop, the candy kitchen (where the treats are made), and the High Alpine Chapel, a Swiss chapel that is dedicated to mountaineers who lost their lives in the mountains.
Julius, unfortunately, lost his in 1981 to a battle with cancer, a few years after he became the oldest person to traverse the 14,000-plus-foot Mount Rainier.
The shop has since been at the hands of Bernard Garbusjuk, a German-native who met Julius is Seattle and began working at the Issaquah shop 10 years before Julius’ passing.
Fun fact: Bernard married his wife Hee Jeong Park, at the chapel on the Boehm’s grounds.
Boehm’s Candies & Chocolates
If you’re looking for chocolate, I hope you don’t get easily overwhelmed. There’s so much to choose from at Boehm’s.
The (current) signature chocolate is the Encores, a melt-away chocolate filled with mint, raspberry, almond, or mocha. The mocha is so good with a hint of coffee flavor floating in dark chocolate.
The orange chocolate is delicious with a rich orange flavor (that’s so much better than that orange-shaped chocolate ball you’re thinking of). There’s also arancini, which I always knew as an Italian rice ball, but this is Italian candied orange peel in chocolate.
There’s chocolate you can buy by the pound, like caramels and hand-dipped chocolate truffles, and packaged treats, like malt balls, nonpareils, and chocolate bars emblazoned with Washington icons.
You can actually order them at the Boehm’s website for delivery, if you’re not heading to the area for a while and need your fix. You can also order for curbside pickup, if you’re in the area.
If you’re out of town, you can find the full product line at Boehm’s Chocolates of Poulsbo and Yakima Beads, Rocks & Candy Emporium in Yakima, WA, and select products in the Snoqualmie Casino and at Chocolate & Ice Cream Delight in Pikes Place Market in Seattle.
Boehm’s Candies Tours
If you’re around, you can give yourself a free, self-guided window tour of the candy kitchen by looking through various windows to see the staff actually making chocolate (which yes, feels as awkward as that sentence sounds).
You can look through the windows during retails hours, although, of course, you’ll only be able to see the workers during production times.
There’s information at each window that tells you what you’re looking at, so you can learn a bit about the process.
If you want a little more hand holding (and a little less of a voyeuristic feeling), guided tours are available by reservation only. On that paid tour, you’ll see the chocolate making process, the chalet where Julius Boehm lived, and the chapel, if it’s not being used for service or a wedding.
And, if you plan it right, you can actually join a chocolate making class, where you’ll make your own mold, chocolate bar, and more. Plus, you’ll take home over a pound of chocolate, which is worth the price of admission. You’ll also get a tour of Julius Boehm’ chalet while you’re waiting for your chocolate to dry.
If you can’t make a tour, the children’s show Blippi visited Boehm’s in August 2018. You can see the episode, which shows the candy making process and the shop’s fish-shaped ice cream cone, on YouTube.
Boehm’s Candies: Frequently Asked Questions
255 NE Gilman Blvd; Issaquah, WA
Monday through Saturday: 9 am to 6 pm
Sunday: 10 am to 6 pm
The original candy kitchen opened in Seattle in 1942 and moved to Issaquah in 1956.
More Chocolate Shop Reviews:
If you’re doing a tour of chocolate shops on the West Coast, don’t forget to check out Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate Factory & Tasting Room in Eureka, California.
Have you been to Boehm’s Candies? Let us know about your experience in the comments.