Family-inspired vision comes in form of chocolate

Two of the Mandas brothers, Spencer (left) and Preston (center), along with a family friend, stand at the Melting Pot's counter in downtown Independence.

Two of the Mandas brothers, Spencer (left) and Preston (center), along with a family friend, stand at the Melting Pot's counter in downtown Independence.

INDEPENDENCE — Downtown Independence welcomed another small business into the city during the grand opening of Melting Pot Candy, a chocolate shop that sells truffles, toffees and caramels, and also carries vegan options.

The business is owned by Bonnie Andrews and operated by her three sons, Preston, Spencer and Chris Mandas.

While this is the business’s only brick-and-mortar shop, Melting Pot Candy has been around since 2009, traveling around the Willamette Valley to different markets and shows in the Salem, McMinnville, and Lincoln City areas, selling chocolate and using the contact with customers for advertising.

In addition, they wholesale to different stores including Northwest Food and Gifts in McMinnville, Sugar, Sugar, in Salem, Chocolate Box in Silverton, and some stores in Dallas as well. They also wholesale to a shop called Friday Harbor, located in the San Juan Islands in Washington.

Melting Pot Candy is a company that originates from family roots. Not only is the company family-owned, but making chocolate goes back generations for the Mandas family.

The recipes the brothers use for Melting Pot Candy were originally their grandmother’s.

She and their grandfather used to make candy together and sell it, and as Preston and his brothers were growing up, they remember their mom also using those recipes and making her own candies.

“It started with, just, mom’s candy she made every year, you know, stole a recipe from grandma, and then it just kind of slowly grew more and more and more,” Spencer said.

It’s grown so much, in fact, that it’s won awards, with Bonnie’s Jalapeño toffee winning five blue ribbons in the past few years.

“A lot of people know us for it,” Spencer said.

As the company grew and people started becoming familiar with their products, Spencer said he saw people act more responsive and excited about the candy they were making, one of the reasons they decided to set up a permanent shop.

“We’ve been talking about doing a storefront for a while,” Spencer said, but that idea came with uncertainty. “Location, location, location; it’s huge.”

For a while, he said they considered Portland, but with their commercial kitchen being in Dallas, it was too much of a commute.

Their mother, Bonnie, lived in the Dallas area for about seven or eight years, where she worked in management at the Spirit Mountain Casino.

After an unfortunate layoff, Preston said that’s when Bonnie had the idea for setting up a shop in Independence.

“It gave her incentive to start,” he said. “Last October she was driving through Independence, and saw the ‘for sale’ sign on the shop off of Main and C street, and thought, ‘This is where I have to have my candy shop.’”

Since then, a lot of time and effort has gone into making the shop what it is now, with still a lot to do — including getting a hood vent for the kitchen so Preston won’t have to bake and cook the candy from home anymore. He said it should be another month or two until they are able to install it.

Setting up a new business can be a challenge; it can be hard to know how the city will take to it. So far, Melting Pot Candy feels at ease with the decision to set up shop in Independence.

“We have felt very welcomed to the community,” Preston said. “Everyone has been tremendously helpful. We think it’s all magnificent. We are thrilled to death to be there.”

His enthusiasm matches the people’s excitement of having a chocolate shop in town.

“We sold a third, maybe half, of the truffles we ordered on Saturday, the second day we were open.” Preston said. “We’ve already reordered and are getting some of (those orders) tonight.”

Due to the city’s numerous events in the downtown area, he said he expects to do very well this summer.

“We are open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.”

Originally, the brothers and their mom wanted to open the shop Feb 8, in time for Valentine’s Day. But with so much going on, what with opening the business and still maintaining a presence at farmers markets and shows, the opening date was pushed back to Feb. 23.

Despite things running a little less smoothly than they would have liked, now that the shop is open, Spencer said it was worth it.

“It’s just so cool to see so many people enjoy something we made.”

Working so closely with family can be both challenging and rewarding.

“It’s been a challenge, yeah, but it’s been awesome because like, you know, who you work with makes it,” he said. “Like a lot. It’s family; we’re gonna fight and butt heads, and then you just overcome it. It’s actually been huge, it’s helped our family quite a bit, just in the sense that everybody gets together and is all working on the same project, and we all kinda have the same goal: make awesome candy and feed it to people.”

Next weekend, Melting Pot Candy will participate in a show called The Sip, located at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, where sellers promote wines and chocolates, soaps, jewelry, arts, and more.


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