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The Search for a Candy Factory

Finding a home rental can be tough in Bend—and the trend continues in commercial kitchens



If the availability of commercial kitchen space is an indication, Bend likes its sweets, treats and eats.

A combination of the popularity of locally made food products, food trucks and the legalization of marijuana are making it tough to find a commercial kitchen space in Bend. It's not tough to see why; in the last five to seven years, we've seen a boom in locally made food products, including Humm, Justy's Jelly, Bonta Gelato and Honest Baking, just to name a few. As these businesses have grown they all started to look for commercial kitchens.

Combine this with the boom in food trucks, (some of them also have a prep kitchen) and you can start to see how easily commercial kitchen space gets "eaten" up.

After some growing pains, and a lot of time looking, Holm Made Toffee is now one of the businesses with a coveted commercial kitchen spot.

A Family Secret

Secret recipes are highly guarded within families. Donna Holm, the founder of Holm Made Toffee, didn't share the recipe with Randi, her business partner/daughter-in-law until Randi was engaged to Donna's son. If you've tried Holm Made Toffee you understand why this recipe is precious. Their toffee is crisp, sweet and chocolatey, all while melting in your mouth.

The pair started the company in 2007, sharing their confections at farmer's markets and steadily growing the business one sample at a time (you get to taste all six flavors if you visit their booth). In 2014, business was going so well that Randi and Donna knew they needed to move out of their licensed domestic kitchen. There, they could only make small batches at a time, limited by the size of their saucepans. During peak seasons they would be working seven days a week to keep up with demand. Knowing commercial space was hard to find, Randi put her feelers out. She did this casually for a year and then started looking daily to see if anything opened up. Every once in a while she would find a good lead, but the spaces ended up being too big or needing too many expensive improvements.

This tightening of the real estate market was happening even before the legalization of marijuana. Once weed was legal, Bend had an entirely new group of people looking for commercial kitchen space to make their edible gummies, magic brownies and THC infused sodas.

Amidst all this competition for space, Randi got a break in 2016, with a lead from the company that embroiders her aprons. She immediately visited the space at 1470 NE 1st Street and put her name on the waiting list. Yes, like home rentals, there was a waiting list. As luck would have it, Holm Made Toffee scored the lease—a big break, yes, but just the first hurdle in their efforts to grow their toffee business. After getting the keys, it's taken them almost a year to get the space ready for candy production.

As, a small business without deep pockets, they've done most of the build out themselves, enlisting family and friends to clean, paint and prep the floors. While they were searching for used restaurant equipment online they were also navigating city codes and the department of agriculture regulations. Randi remembers getting so excited when she found her dream three-compartment sink on Craigslist. It was in Portland, so she had to drive there right away to get it.

After a year of growing pains and space build-outs, Holm Made Toffee was rewarded for their effort. This year, at the 13th Annual Oregon Chocolate Festival in Ashland, they took home two prizes: "Best Chocolate Candy – Honorable Mention" for their cardamom and vanilla hazelnut toffee, and the festival's top prize, "Best in Show." Randi said, "It is such an honor to receive 'Best in Show' 2017. This event draws talented chocolatiers from Oregon, California and Washington. We are thrilled to be in such good company at this festival, so to walk away with this particular award is truly humbling."

After the long road to opening their new space, Holm Made Toffee is having a special open house on April 7. The business doesn't regularly open to the public, so this is a unique opportunity to explore the shop and grab the samples.

Holm Made Toffee Open House

Fri., April 7, 5-8pm

1470 NE 1st St., Ste 800, Bend.

About The Author

Lisa Sipe

Food Writer | The Source Weekly

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