French Quarter welcomes How Sweet It Is candy and confection company
Brian Vocker's two-and-a-half year hiatus from the candy business came to an abrupt end in early October of 2017 when he got laid off from his job selling those individual, durable, insulated water bottles.
Anyone who's ever taken that long drive home after getting let go can relate to what happened next.
His wife Pilar Vocker says she and Brian had talked often about starting their own candy and confection business.
"We were going to do it, but we were going to do it when we retired or just….later. It was always going to be later. Brian got laid off and then we were like…"
Guess what Brian was thinking about driving home that day. "It didn't take that long.
I knew what we needed to do. So I called Pilar and told her 'It's time to do it'".
Pilar, who had just delivered her fourth child (a little girl, making for three girls, one boy) two months before, was ready.
"I said, 'You know what?' You have a talent. We have to do this. We have to stop waiting for when the time is right. We took the risk. It was a little odd, with four children, but we were convinced that it was the right thing to do."
And now in the southwest corner of the French Quarter on Multnomah Boulevard HOW SWEET IT IS has a brick-and-mortar presence to show off and sell candy, chocolates, cookies, caramel corn and more.
Shelves stocked with Rosemary Pecan Brittle (number one seller by far, they say),
Caramel Corn Clusters, Not-Your-Average Graham Crackers, Midnight Mallows and
Dark Chocolate Raspberry Rocky Road take up most of the space in what was actually a storage closet at the French Quarter complex of shops and services at SW 35th and Multnomah Boulevard. There is also a variety of gift boxes containing multiple products.
Their product line is entirely the work of the Vocker family working out of a kitchen at the Portland Mercado www.portlandmercado.org in the Lents neighborhood. It's a long way from the super-affluent San Francisco suburb Burlingame to SE Portland. But down south is where Brian learned everything he knows about making candy.
"At Preston's Candy & Ice Cream I learned how to do everything. I prepared hundreds of different kinds of candy recipes, but never my own. So this become our chance to do everything ourselves," he said.
He got that life-changing news in early October last year. By November HOW SWEET IT IS had a web site www.howsweetitispdx.com up and was ready to launch. That debut gave them all the encouragement they needed Pilar recalls.
"We launched at the Christmas bazaar at our oldest daughter's school - Saint Thomas More. This was early December. We brought three of our products including Ray's Rocky Road. It just really sparked our business."
Brian created Tom's Rocky Road to honor his father, who passed away around the time he lost his job and followed his dream.
The business may now have a permanent home in the French Quarter but the Vockers - all six of them - will still be working the Farmers Marker circuit at South waterfront, Cedar Mills, Hillsboro and Bridgeport Village. (They'd love to get a spot at Hillsdale Farmers Market.) They're also available for catering and private events like kid's birthday parties.
A longer version of the HOW SWEET IT IS story will appear in the February 1 issue of the SW Community Connection. pamplinmedia.com/southwest-community-connection-home.