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Julius Boehm's legacy continued in Garbusjuk family

Bernard Garbusjuk mixes chocolate at Boehm’s Candy as a young man.  - Contributed
Bernard Garbusjuk mixes chocolate at Boehm’s Candy as a young man.
— image credit: Contributed

BY MARY SCOTT

In July, The Reporter printed “Boehm’s Candies: Remembering Julius Boehm.” That article took us through Boehms’ history from Julius’ birth in 1897 to his passing in December 1981. This explores what’s happened since.

When Julius Boehm died of cancer at age 84, Boehm’s Candies was already a corporation; ownership devolved to a board of directors. Bernard Garbusjuk, Julius’ assistant and friend who had been with Boehm’s since 1972, became general manager. Bernard was a board member, and is now the owner. A second generation of Garbusjuks, Bernard’s son Tyson and daughter Narissa, have joined the company.

Bernard is “adamant about letting everyone know that Boehm’s Candies and the Edelweiss Chalet are Julius Boehm’s legacy”, according to Peggy Braeutigam in an article about Bernard. In 1982, Bernard asked Braeutigam, an Issaquah artist, to make calligraphic signs for the candy counter. “Each time they needed new signs, Bernard would walk through the door (of The Issaquah Gallery) and enticingly say, Peggy, I’ve brought you a goodie bag.”

Bernard knew how to “entice” folks into helping improve the candy company, and the community. Over the years, service organizations and community causes have received Boehm’s generosity. The company became active in the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce, and in efforts to promote Issaquah tourism.

Bernard spent his first 17 years in East Germany, “at a time when freedom to choose one’s vocation wasn’t so good. He knew his dream of being a veterinarian wasn’t possible there, so he moved to West Germany. It soon became apparent that he needed to earn a living; the fastest possible way was to become a pastry chef because his maternal grandfather was a well-known pastry and confectioner chef. He spent the next seven years as an apprentice in kitchens of some of the finest hotels and spas of Germany,” Braeutigam wrote.

Bernard concluded that to earn the title “Chef” would take many more years as  apprentice. Then he met a Seattle restaurant owner who was visiting the spa; she offered to sponsor Bernard as an immigrant to the U.S. if he would cook in her Bothell restaurant. Within a year, Bernard moved to the U.S. He soon was working two jobs, in Bothell and Seattle. Then Julius Boehm asked Bernard to move to Issaquah to work in the Candy Kitchen. Braeutigam says, “Julius proved to be a hard task master but an invaluable mentor to Bernard.”

In 1981 the Candy Kitchen had three retail outlets. Bernard increased their number. The mail-order business was enlarged. As business expanded, the facility was also expanded—several times. The most recent major expansion began in 1986 and took a year. By 1987, Boehm’s was reporting more than one million dollars in sales.

The “Chocolate, Wine, and All That Jazz” food carnival began in 1988 on Boehm’s grounds. A Chamber of Commerce event, it gives local food, wine, and jazz providers a way to offer their latest selections to annual sell-out crowds.

Bernard became active in Retail Confectioners International, a group of 480 candy companies working to improve the industry. Bernard served on their Board of Directors. Now Tyson Garbusjuk serves on the Board.

Bernard says, “Small companies sometimes try to be Costco, and they can’t. Or, they try to stay the same as they were, and hang on. Boehm’s chooses a more stressful and demanding, but modern, approach. We try to be out in front of changing markets.”

Bernard’s wife Joanne was responsible for much “forward thinking”, especially ways to streamline mail orders, and to increase tourists and tours. Mindi Reid, an employee, tour conductor, and unofficial Boehm’s historian, says people describe Joanne quiet but strong, a person who communicated in a way that “oiled the wheels and united everyone.” Joanne certainly did that when this writer worked at Boehm’s. Although Joanne died of cancer in 2001, her presence continues to be felt.

Others who continue to be felt include ageless retirees Rae Pickering, who started in 1956 when Julius opened the business, and Grace Tietje, who never told me what year she started making chocolates. Daughters of Grace and of Rae were also candy makers when I worked; at least one continues dipping chocolates today.

Boehm’s has been a first job for many local high schoolers. Lots of them work for years, then return from college to work holidays. Young ladies usually do sales; young men do clean-up, maintenance, and yard work. In some families, sibling after sibling has worked at Boehm’s. It’s that sort of place, but busy, precise, particular, and demanding. Currently there are 27 full time and part time employees.

Mary Scott is a docent for the Issaquah History Museums.

 

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