Bursts Candy in Corvallis is on its fourth owner but little else has changed. The doors still open early, with workers and the chocolate is still handmade on the premises. Customers still line up through the old shop, and customer service is still the number one priority.
Located on Madison Avenue, Bursts sweetly inhabits a building that has never been anything other than what it is today: a candy store. The same window that, today holds a unique display of local artists’ wares, was once where passersby could watch Mrs. Burst dip chocolate.
Longtime employee, Erin, remembers conversations she had with the original owner and how those conversations have carried through into the business today. “Ms. Burst had told me during the war years sugar was rationed. She’d gotten a 50 pound bag of sugar, and it was Christmas Eve, so she made up divinity and took it to the boys. So divinity will always be a Christmas treat to me,” she shared. Divinity chocolate is just one of the many specialty candies the store carries. During the holidays, head chocolatier and owner, Patrick, is hard at work rolling out peanut brittle and mixing up fudge. Depending on the work ahead for the day, he arrives early in the morning, and heads down to the kitchen. Large copper pots hang like bookmarks on a golden era, before mass production cut out individual workmanship. Old recipes, dating back 70 years, are kept safely stored near a conveyor belt reminiscent of everyone’s favorite “I Love Lucy” episode. Marble tables lay scattered with chocolate and sugar, reminders of the attention that went into the finished product, wrapped by local kids. “This year, we have kids graduating from Oregon State, and both high schools. We’re often their first job and we teach them, you know, politeness, cleanliness, customer service. Really what it takes to hold a job,” Erin shared.
While production of the chocolate moved downstairs in the 1970s, upstairs a flurry of customers is a constant. Bursts attracts its share of tourists, but it is the local customer base that has stayed most loyal. Though summer is the slow season, the store still sees repeat customers, often generations worth. “We certainly have very, very loyal customers. I always ask them if they’re third or fourth generation. We’ve had fifth generation that have been coming in that long. There’s a very loyal customer base.” When residents aren’t bringing their children into Bursts, they’re sending Bursts out to their children. According to Erin, “We have people come in and say that their son or daughter’s moved away and they want to send them a box of chocolate. We get a lot of that.”
Bursts has entrenched itself into the community, going so far as to remind residents to vote on the day the Advocate visited the shop. “The community is great,” Erin shared, “We just try to do chocolate right. I think people are seeing the difference between a good chocolate bar and a Hershey bar.” Judging by the line forming at Bursts, it is clear where Corvallis gets its chocolate bars.
By Caitlyn May