A quaint candy-colored Cape Cod-style cottage with pitched roof and dormer windows on Telegraph Avenue -- the longtime home of the Hooper's Candy Co. -- for decades lent a cozy air to North Oakland's Temescal shopping district.
When the business closed some years back, folks wondered what would become of the landmark.
For this month at least, the cottage has become a cheery pop-up holiday boutique, thanks to the efforts of the Temescal Community Foundation, a local nonprofit group that accepts donations of furniture, bric-a-brac and other collectibles for resale.
Darlene Rios Drapkin, the executive director of the Temescal/Telegraph Avenue Business Improvement District, is glad to see something happening in the cottage, which has stood vacant for so long.
"We are really pleased to see this," Drapkin said. "It is such an iconic building and so many people have memories of coming and shopping there for special chocolates and other treats."
After stopping in and seeing all the vintage holiday items so artfully arranged for sale, I arranged to speak to both Bob Boone and Raf Rouf-Esparza, the men who worked to create this little winter wonderland.
Boone, a transplant from Baltimore with 30 years experience with retail and antique businesses, and Esparza, an art student with handy electrical skills for lamp and other vintage pieces repair, are pleased with the way the boutique has turned out.
"We approached the building owners. They are relatives of the Hooper family and had not yet decided what to do with the place," Boone said. "We assured them we would take good care of it, and they seem pleased with what we have done for the holidays."
Boone hopes to host more holiday-themed pop-up boutiques in the coming year.
The first owner of the candy cottage/factory was a man named George P. Ballachey. In 1925, he founded a chain of confectionary shops known as Margaret Burnham Cottage Candies, with outlets in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco. The food processing end of the business was in Temescal, and he built the quaint cottage facing the street to showcase the products. Customers were invited to take tours in the back and see how the chocolatiers created their wares.
The business did well, even through the Depression years.
Ballachey was not the only one with ideas for how to merchandise candies using homespun marketing techniques. During this same time, Charles See, a native of Canada, was making and selling chocolates like his mother, Mary, used to make. The See's Candy chain originated in Southern California and later expanded to the Bay Area. Today the company is still in business, with more than 200 outlets throughout the West.
Here in Oakland, Gordon Hooper took over from Ballachey in the early 1950s, and the company name was changed to Hooper's Candies. His wife, Barbara, loved the color pink, so the story goes, and the Telegraph Avenue cottage went from white with green trim to the pale pink it is today. At one time, Hooper's employed 90 employees and had a delivery truck outfitted with a miniature cottage on top, for home deliveries.
The holiday boutique in the historic Hooper Candy Cottage, at 4632 Telegraph Ave., is open every day until Christmas, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. For more information, call 510-653-6817.