In the wake of Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest statewide COVID-19 guidelines, the locally beloved candy shop Bon Bon on Winslow Way won’t have its operations affected too much as the mandate of prohibiting customers from in-person service doesn’t apply to the retail business.
“I don’t think Governor Inslee’s order would prohibit that in any way,” co-owner Cheryl Smith said. “We’re a retail establishment. Our reading of his order is that we can operate at 25 percent capacity.”
Inslee’s latest guidelines, announced Sunday, state that in-store retailers shall be “limited to 25 percent of indoor occupancy limits.” Before that announcement, Bon Bon had been operating at an occupancy limit of five people, a number that will be shortened to four to adhere to the 25 percent capacity.
Diana Cohen and Smith purchased the business in September from Lisa Wangen, who originally opened the shop in 2007. The co-owner duo both left corporate jobs and moved to the island within the past few years.
“We met and were both looking for something to do that would allow us more flexibility in our schedules,” Smith said. “We were talking about opening a business of some sort here on Bainbridge. We learned kind of through the grapevine that this store was potentially for sale, although Lisa had not listed it for sale. We came in and talked to her and spoke to her for quite a while before we finalized the purchase.”
Prior to their ownership, Bon Bon briefly closed its doors at the beginning of the pandemic and diverted to online sales for pickup or shipping for quite a few months before opening again. To supplement the lack of occupancy, the store will offer shopping by appointment before and after the store closes. Bon Bon is also working with the city of Bainbridge Island to provide a curbside space in front of the store for elderly folks to have their items brought to their vehicle.
The store ships all over the country. It also provides delivery on the island, a service that both owners agreed was a bit more “labor-intensive.”
“Certainly curbside is what would make our lives easier but we do offer delivery because there are people who have been quarantined this entire time and don’t leave their homes,” Smith said. “We’ll do what we can to accommodate people who aren’t comfortable coming in the store.”
In a year when many small businesses are struggling to turn a profit and have resorted to unique and creative methods to combat that, Smith said business has been “really good.”
“We certainly are exceeding our goals,” Smith said. “We have a lot of people come in and tell us how much this store means to them and that they’re appreciative that somebody was able to take it over. We’re getting a lot of traffic from Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Port Townsend; people who are just wanting to take a day trip to Bainbridge. It’s compensating a lot for the normal tourist traffic.”
Bon Bon provides a wide selection of chocolates, truffles, caramels, taffy, licorice, assorted gifts, and is perhaps best known for its Bainbridge Island Fudge.
“We make it ourselves,” Cohen said “We have a kitchen in Poulsbo that we’re using; we use the finest product out there to make this fudge. It’s a very creamy fudge. We also take pride in the fact that we have numerous flavors to choose from. Our top seller is our dark chocolate caramel sea salt; it is by far the top-seller.”
In anticipation of the holidays, the shop will be introducing a candy cane peppermint fudge, along with other kinds of holiday fudge in coming weeks. Bon Bon also provides a large number of other holiday candies and chocolates with various price points to meet all customer needs.
“I think the fact that people can walk out of here with a gift that they can take right to a recipient because it is packaged beautifully and care has been taken in the presentation, we think people like that aspect of the store,” Smith said. There’s kind of a nostalgic feel to the store.”
In regard to COVID protocols, masks, gloves and hand sanitizer are provided onsite, while counters and items are wiped down frequently by staff. The owners noted that they have had to ask people to leave a few times because they didn’t have masks.