The Thanksgivings that we spent at my great aunts’ house were always anticipated. She lived in an amazing home in the middle of a redwood forest. She had a stone fireplace in her living room that would be roaring. My sister and I always fought for a spot in front of it. Her living room was like a magazine snapshot out of the 50’s. Glamorous low furniture, thick rugs that our toes could wiggle through, and dark wood furniture that made the room feel like it was part of the forest behind the house. But I really didn’t appreciate her style or décor until I was much older and she had passed away. What I appreciated, when we were there for family events, was an old tin that she kept stashed in her formal dining room (complete with the swinging door that my fingers were pinched in many times) credenza. My sister and I waited until everyone was done eating dinner, and had left the room to settle in the grand living room with wood beamed ceiling and the immense fireplace, to open up her tin. In it were wrapped candies. She always had a supply. I think she knew that we would sneak a few each time we visited. They had gold foil, and just opening the foil while we hid under the table made us happy. The center of the treat was toffee, and the outside was covered in nuts and chocolate. I didn’t know until I was older, that I was eating Almond Roca. We would both unwrap the candy, suck all the chocolate and nuts off and then crunch away at the toffee center. I always tried to just suck on it to make it last, but I could never be patient enough for that. I loved the buttery taste, the crunch, and even how the pieces would get firmly stuck in my teeth.
Every once in a while I will see that familiar pink tin, and remember my love for that toffee treat. Sometimes, my parents will get a bit of nostalgia and will buy some and put them out with the thanksgiving desserts, or on the Christmas table. There is just something so warm and good, about the memories of those sweet and crunchy candies.
When I contacted Rachel and Bill of p.o.p. my mind immediately went back to those memories. Enjoy meeting them, and learning about their love of toffee, and go see them this weekend (Nov 30th) at Patchwork Show in Santa Ana. Sample their cool creations, and take home a few for gifts! And I’m going to make sure to introduce my kids this year to the joy to sneaking an Almond Roca under the empty thanksgiving table.
Please introduce yourself.
p.o.p. is Rachel Flores and Bill Waiste. Rachel is a SoCal girl and Billy’s from Seattle. We’ve both lived in the Bay Area and LOVE it there. We envision a p.o.p. shop “opening soon” there … someday 🙂
What do you make or do?
We make a fresh butter crunch. Think of it like fresh toffee, without chocolate or corn syrup. Most flavors are also gluten free. Definitely butter (everything is better with butter!). We use all natural *clean* ingredients … herbs from our Santa Monica Farmers Market, quality spices from Penskeys, farmers market fruit and veggies.
We’re up to about 11 flavors now, including customer favorites like fire pistachio, rosemary almond, brown sugar & cinnamon. We also make special flavors for our holiday shows. Last year it was carrot cake p.o.p. made with real carrots; we used yogurt covered raisins for the frosting flavor, which is critical to carrot cake. Customers loved it, and we knew it was a memorable flavor when they asked for it when we next saw them during our spring shows!
This holiday season, we’ve got:
(1) old fashioned p.o.p., inspired by the classic cocktail. It’s made with real luxardo maraschino cherries (the real deal!), all-natural brandy and bourbon extracts, spices, currants, and citrus. We’re thrilled that we were able to get the flavor where we have in 3 trials. Sold out so quickly of Batch 3 when we first presented it that we offered customers Batch 2 as well, and they snatched that up too!
(2) bacon, brown sugar & rosemary: our customers have been REALLY clear that a bacon flavor is almost a requirement! We love the addition of brown sugar into this rustic flavor. It adds a really nice bottom. Customers have been snatching that up too!
BTW, it should be noted that holiday special flavors are only available at live shows, like Patchwork Santa Ana 🙂
Where can we find your creations?
People catch us at live shows or on the web (www.gopopcandy.com). They also like to order online and pick us up at our Culver City kitchen or at a live event (e.g., Patchwork Santa Ana or our monthly stop at the Mar Vista Farmers Market). The holidays are definitely a time when customers will order online ahead of time for stuff that they want to pick up at a live event. It’s a system we’ve worked out that really works, and we LOVE that it works for everybody!!
People can keep up with us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Is there an interesting story behind the name of your business?
When we started p.o.p., we wanted to go with a name that grounded us on our community … community very important to us. But we didn’t want to go with something obvious like Santa Monica Butter Crunch Company. WAY too old world! So … p.o.p. candy co. was inspired by Pacific Ocean Park, an amusement park that sat on Lick Pier that once sat between Santa Monica Pier and Venice Pier. It was designed to complete with Disneyland back in the day, and was known for its wild rides and attractions. In its heyday, the attendance was over one million each year. Sadly, an urban project renewal hindered access to the park causing sharp declines in attendance in the mid-60s, and the park was forced to close in 1967. Empty and deteriorating, the pier kept standing throughout the early 70’s, becoming immortalized as the infamous “Dogtown” by the local skateboarders and surfers until its demolition in 1975. There’s more about POP here and here.
What obstacles have you had to overcome to lead a creative life?
When we started with p.o.p., so much fell into place so fast! For Rachel, after years of building up projects and brands for non-profit programs, it felt GREAT to focus that kind of energy on my own project, and all became clear so quickly. For Bill, his years in the restaurant industry have served p.o.p. so well! His knowledge about food costs and how to effectively run a food-related business have been so helpful to us.
We started p.o.p. because we saw an opportunity to collaborate on something of our own that called on our respective strengths. It’s been so very cool to be creative together in the flavors we design and packaging we refine for our customers and our business. It’s gone from “Can we really do this?” to “We need more and more time to do this!”
Creativity doesn’t have appointed hours, which can be both a blessing and a curse, right?!
When you’re not making things, what do you do?
We are big film fans. Slipping into someone else’s world for a few hours is a great way to take a mental break from all the stuff we’re doing. We’ll also hit the road and go up to Mammoth or Lake Arrowhead with a stack of unread NYT and LAT newspapers when we need to get away. The cool thing is that inspiration comes from anywhere — a billboard, a great meal or cocktail, a scene in a movie. So even when we’re “off,” the inspiration trigger is on!