Eric's Heroes: Heaven in a chocolate shop around the corner in Tacoma

For three generations, the Johnson family has been making candy with care and love at its Tacoma shop. (Photo: KOMO News)

TACOMA, Wash. -- There's a little piece of heaven in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood.

It's a place where they offer chocolate with love and the tradition of three generations.

This is the Johnson Candy Co.

"This place ... the candy is 100 percent," one customer says "It's hundred-proof. You can't get no better than this. It's homemade ... It's old-school. I like it."

Back in 1918, Russ Johnson's parents had a soda fountain diner in the Hilltop Neighborhood.

Russ Johnson took over and decided to concentrate on candy. In 1949, he built the store.

Russ' son Ron took over from his dad.

Today, Bill, Ron's son, is the candy maker.

That's three generations making chocolate.

"When your name is on the business, obviously every piece of candy you care about how it goes out," Bill Johnson said. "And I think that's part of having a small family business."

This is how it begins at the Johnson Candy Co.: Cream is poured into an ancient copper kettle. Then a 100-year-old fire mixer shudders to life.

Blades descent into the kettle. Sugar and other sweet things are added.

It's a recipe that Russ Johnson bought from a Greek candy maker in 1923.

So the candy is made in the same machine where it has been crafted for nearly 100 years.

When the sweet stuff is just right, Bill and Ron Johnson pour a lake of caramel onto sheets, then float some almonds on top.

The next day, after the candy is cut into chunks, a woman named Anna, a chocolate dipper of the highest order, transforms each piece into edible ebony jewels.

They are displayed and await customers like Jean, who has been coming in every 10 days for -- well, it seems like forever.

"How many years? About 50 because I've been retired 30," Jean says.

And there they are: English toffee, pecan rolls, chocolate mint truffles, chocolate marshmallow whips, butterscotch cashew clusters and the No. 1 seller, salted caramels.

Suzie came for these as a child. And now she runs the shop.

"Our product is our candy," she says. "And each piece is made with love and care and needs to be presented in the same way."

Made with love. You'll get no argument about that from Bill Johnson's mom, Bee.

"Love what you do and do it every day and do it as well as you can," she says.

So the little shop on the corner continues. The Johnsons aren't candy barons, but Ron Johnson is just fine with that.

"We don't care to get really wealthy at this. It's just nice," he said. "It's a pleasant business. It's a happy business to be in."

The Johnson Candy Co. is proof if you make thing with care and love and if you do the right way day after day, they will show up and keep showing up. Maybe for 100 years.

And if you're Jean, every 10 days.

Editor's Note: "Eric's Heroes" is a weekly series airing every Wednesday on KOMO News in the 6 p.m. newscast. If you have a good story about a good person doing good things for the right reasons, share it with Eric by sending an email to

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