Tucked tightly among a bunch of colorful shops along the northern strip of Yaquina Bay, Oregon, are two little dueling candy shops. To access the narrow road they are on, that curves right along the Bay Front, you have to go down unlikely side roads from the main highway, but there are signs and about three reasonable options. It can be confusing if you end up on the one that takes you through a neighborhood of quaint homes, but if you keep heading down steep hills and around blind corners, you’ll probably make it.
Once there, you may find parking difficult, especially on weekends. On weekends, the atmosphere is one of fishing pier-carnival. There are stores such as fancy art shops, discount leather establishments, and casual eateries. And competing candy shops, selling all kinds of candy, but mostly salt water taffy and gourmet chocolates.
The first one we happened upon was Aunt Belinda’s. They were a friendly sort of busy, always cheerfully ready to greet the next customer and answer questions. The varieties of taffy were astonishing. I may have previously eaten taffy about twice in my life, it not being chocolate, after all. But we were encouraged to try a few samples. The flavors were very mild, and sometimes not all that distinct, but it was a fun part of our Oregon Coast vacation, so I grabbed one of their paper sacks and bought some to take back to the condo. I took photos (which I have since lost) of the bins and labels, in an attempt to keep track of flavors, but next time I will just get a different sack for each flavor. It was impossible to distinguish them even with the photos, except for a couple kinds that had more specific coloring, like the watermelon or pomegranate ones.
As diverting as all of that was, I was really there for the chocolate. It was not inexpensive at about $17 a pound, which meant I limited my purchase. At least until I knew if it was any good. There were standard options and creative ones. I tried about 7 pieces, leaning more toward familiar and dark chocolate types. Not being the sort of person who limits herself to one sample of chocolate a day, I had tested them all by that evening. I was pleased with most of them, but didn’t care for the raspberry jelly stick covered in chocolate. I like fruit and chocolate, but the texture and flavor were bothering me. In a rare case, I actually threw away the remaining half of it. However, let me reiterate, that I enjoyed the rest of them quite a lot.
I had also purchased chocolates and taffy from the Newport Candy Shoppe. This shop was a only a couple of small blocks and a few skinny storefronts down the street from Aunt Belinda’s, and as soon as I walked into it, I sensed the intense competition between the shops. Some of the aura of the first shop made more sense, though none of it was obnoxious or overt. It was just there, in both shops. Just that extra edge of what is special about our shop.
This, unfortunately, was not affecting chocolate prices as much as I would have liked. In Newport Candy Shoppe, the chocolate was closer to $19 a pound, but I will have to admit that overall I liked it better. There were more flavor combinations that I found appealing and I was not disappointed with any that I chose. That may have been luck of the draw, but I had more trouble narrowing down what chocolate I would buy from this shop. The pieces were mostly quite large, meaning that I decided not to buy more than four this time around, too. (click on any photo to enlarge.)
The one thing that bothered me about the Newport Candy Shoppe was the excessively noisy taffy machine that was running right behind the counter. The approximately 8 foot long and 5 foot high contraption, which reminded me of the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for some reason, was mesmerizing to watch work. This could be done through the front window of the shop. I tried to get a photo, but ended up with a nice reflection of me in the glass.
Once inside, the noise was overwhelming. When I commented on it, I mean, yelled to the clerk, she yelled back in a happy candy store way that, yes, it was quite noisy!! Something about advertising how freshly made the taffy is. I was quite relieved when we went back to do some more extensive shopping exploration (in all the other stores) a couple days later and it was quiet in there. That day, I chose to spend all my “chocolate money” in Newport Candy Shoppe. Two more palm sized pieces….
All of the chocolate was gone by the next day. Three months later, we still have a few pieces of taffy in a bowl in the dining room at home. I eat some every couple of weeks, fondly remembering the festive bayside shopping center, but really wishing I had more chocolate.