After 13 years satisfying the collective sweet tooth of Edmonds residents and visitors, Nama’s Candy Store is closing its doors.
The last day for the iconic downtown Edmonds store — famous for both its nostalgia candy and fine chocolates — is Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, said owner Pat McKee.
“This has been a blast,” said McKee, who had a long career in facilities management with Nordstrom before entering the candy business with his wife Annette. “But what it came down to was, it’s time.”
After turning 60 on his most recent birthday, McKee said he realized that signing another lease for the store space — located on 5th Avenue just a half block north of the downtown fountain — would mean he’d be working another three or four years.
He wants more time to fish (he spends many early mornings on the Edmonds Fishing Pier) and more time for community service, which he says has been a hallmark of his business. He also wants to reserve time for any future grandchildren that may come along, and said with a smile it’s OK to drop that hint to both his married sons — 30-year-old Zach and 31-year-old Adam — who worked at Nama’s during their high school and college years.
He said the hardest part about retiring was breaking the news to his three high school employees from Edmonds-Woodway and King’s schools. “They are a fabulous group,” he said.
McKee is a well-known community leader, having served on the boards of the Edmonds Historical Museum and the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce and as president of the Downtown Edmonds Merchants Association. He has also been a generous donor of candy to many worthwhile causes, reflected in the corner-shelf display at the back of the store, which is filled with thank you notes from community members.
“That’s us,” he said, pointing to the dozens of cards and letters received in the past year alone. “I have done a whole bunch of community stuff and this (retirement) just gives me more time to do that.”
The decision to open a candy store came after McKee had helped Nordstrom build its store at Alderwood Mall. “We remodeled Southcenter, we remodeled Northgate and we put in Alderwood in the same year, and I told my wife, ‘That’s enough of that,'” he recalled. The McKees — both long-time Edmonds residents — then took a walk through downtown Edmonds “and we said what’s not here and there wasn’t a candy store, so we opened a candy store.”
While the learning curve “was huge,” McKee admitted, he has now become so familiar with the business that he has served as an advisor to other candy entrepreneurs statewide. Candy stores are seeing a resurgence, he noted, thanks to the popularity of nostalgia candy as well as our society’s love for all things chocolate.
“The Pacific Northwest is just a giant contributor to the national chocolate craze,” he said. “There are chocolatiers all over the place.”
He is also proud of serving as a mentor to Edmonds’ own entrepreneurs who have displayed and sold their products in his store — from Dolly Haakenson’s decorated candy boxes to Denise Meade’s photo cards to cupcakes from Stephanie Buono of Frosted Cupcakes and Cakes.
Best of all, Nama’s “fulfilled our goals,” McKee said. “We wanted to be successful. We wanted to be part of the community. And we wanted to have fun. Those are the three main points of our business plan and we’ve accomplished all three.”
The store — which has been featured twice in Sunset Magazine and even once hosted KING-TV’s Evening Magazine — was listed with Windermere Real Estate but no buyer came forward, McKee said. So he stocked up for the Christmas rush and decorated as usual — for the last time. McKee assures customers that Nama’s has a full inventory of sweets for stocking stuffers and holiday parties through the holiday. But after Dec. 24, whatever candy is left will be donated to the local food bank.
When asked if he had a favorite memory during his 13 years, McKee recounted the time that a young boy rode his bike to the store, came up the counter and ordered a small box of fine chocolates.
“I said, ‘This is awesome, but normally kids your age don’t order this kind of chocolate,'” McKee recalled. “And he said, ‘My sister and her boyfriend broke up and she’s really sad so I’m using my allowance to buy her chocolate.’
“Needless to say he got way more chocolate than his allowance,” McKee said.
— By Teresa Wippel