If you are a long-time resident of the Treasure Valley, you’ve probably heard of the iconic Idaho Candy Company and the world-famous Idaho Spud Bar. But, do you know how it all got started?
Meet T.O. Smith, a Salt Lake Native who moved to Idaho to work building the Dewey Palace Hotel in Nampa, which sadly no longer stands today. Once the hotel was built, Smith found himself out of work.
But, in a day when chocolate was difficult to ship, and refrigeration was not yet a common convenience, Smith saw an untapped regional market for candy and chocolate in Idaho. He used his knowledge and experience as a candy maker in Salt Lake City and Chicago, and set to work making chocolate bars. For the people of Boise.
The Idaho Candy Company officially started in 1901 and has been at its current factory and nostalgic storefront location of 412 S. 8th Street since 1909. In its day, it boasted itself as one of Boise’s most modern and state-of-the-art factories and workplaces due its complex machinery (some of which is still used to make candy today), its large size, and the fact that it had a break room for employees.
Dave Wagers, the current CEO of ICC, says that in the height of its production during the 1910s and 20s, The Idaho Candy Company employed over 100 people.
One employee, in particular, is a local Boise legend. Violet ‘Vi’ Brewer worked for ICC for more than 80 years. Mr. Wagers explains she began work at age 13 because her parents were ill, and her family needed the income. She endured through thick and thin at ICC. She was even fired once for visiting a dance hall, which was considered somewhat immoral at the time, but she defiantly kept showing up for her shift at the factory and continued to be a paid employee.
Nowadays, Mr. Wagers explains, the store on 8th St. doesn’t do much business, but that is because the factory in the back of the store where Vi dipped chocolates is hard at work producing candy to distribute to retailers large and small across the nation. The ICC product line can be purchased at almost any convenience, grocery, and drug store.
Next time you are on a road trip and you need to fill up your tank, look at the candy section, and you’ll remember you’re not too far from home.