Food

The C Shop

Time for a sweet summer

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

It’s been 44 years since Patricia and Patrick Alesse first opened the C Shop in Birch Bay, and the candy, ice cream and pizza store remains a favorite summer destination among Birch Bay locals and visitors.

Arrive on a hot summer evening and you’ll see bikes parked haphazardly outside, families trooping in after their barbecue dinner and young couples out on their first dates, hand-in-hand.

If Birch Bay has a center, this is it: the bright yellow, cheerful structure on the corner of Alderson Road and Birch Bay Drive, its insides packed full of tasty treats and warm smiles. The C Shop is just a feel-good, happy place to hang out.

In recent years the couple’s son Keith and his wife, Saara Kuure, have joined “Pat and Pat” as co-owners and the four partners are happily working side by side, serving customers and creating new chocolate fantasies—like a milk chocolate peanut butter cup.

“My parents don’t want to leave, and we couldn’t do this without them,” Keith says.

Inside the ice cream bar patrons crowd in, patiently waiting their turn to pick from one of the 20 ice cream flavors. Nobody minds waiting, because watching the C Shop in action is part of the experience. Directly outside, there’s a large window into the kitchen so customers can watch carmel corn being stirred in a massive vat and peanut brittle being rolled onto the countertop and cut.

The array of candy is incredible. The first items to disappear are the salt and pepper caramels, the almond butter toffee, the peanut butter yumms, the carmel corn and Keith’s C-foam. There are chocolates molded into a wide variety of shapes, fudge samples on the counter and snow cones to take the edge off those muggy, burning-hot days.

But don’t get too distracted by the candy. Just beyond the kitchen there’s another side to the C Shop, and you’d be remiss not to try it. Here the Alesse’s offer 12- and 16-inch pizzas, baked in a 1916 Edison Electric deck oven, that will get your mouth watering. My favorites are the Mediterranean, with sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, spinach and feta, and the White Rock, with white garlic sauce, artichoke hearts and gorgonzola.

The newest pizza addition for this season is the Kickerville Rooster, whose toppings include Sriracha sauce, pineapple, bacon, kalamata olives, pepperoncini and roasted garlic. “It’s sweet, hot and trendy,” Keith says, describing how it was made purely by chance. A last-minute food request had come in from a friend, prompting he and Saara to assemble a pizza based purely on what they had left over. It was such a hit it became an immediate addition to the menu.

Pizzas range in price from $11.75 up to $28.75, with gluten-free crust options available. This year there’s also a gluten-free ice cream cone on the menu, one Keith swears is even better than the regular cones.

Other food options available in the restaurant include cold deli sandwiches, grilled sandwiches, fresh loaves of bread, cinnamon buns and a selection of sundaes, milkshakes and floats. Come in on your birthday and you’ll get free jelly beans totaling your age. Newlyweds and wedding anniversary celebrants also get a free peanut butter yumm bar to share.

The day I met Keith in late May, he’d worked the entire night before making chocolate. Nevertheless, he was still very much in love with the business and everything it represents.

“We often hear customers say how they came to the C Shop when they were a kid, and now they’re bringing their own kids,” he says. “Our candy shop has been a positive experience in their lives, something they’ve looked forward to and a connecting point for people of all ages. Ours is a business that people feel define the area, and we’re proud that part of what summer in Birch Bay means is a visit to the C Shop.”

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