Boehm’s Candies: Wee Austria in Issaquah

Despite what you may believe, the city of Issaquah is home to more than its fair share of historical oddities.

The city is home to a bizarre collection of heritage sites that continue to exist throughout Issaquah, often in relative anonymity, even to many of the native residents. For example, a Masonic temple resides just above the local brew house and an anti-aircraft missile launch base and a 1,600 foot mineshaft remain accessible on Cougar Mountain.

Still, even more curious, is the city’s most prominent piece of history that remains in business today, a chocolate factory.

A chocolate factory, founded by an Olympic torch runner and Nazi Germany refugee, and home to the only certified-authentic Alpine chalet in the Northwest, is a queer cocktail of culture.

It is impossible not to become predisposed by the fancies of Roald Dahl’s imagery or his depiction of the eccentric Willy Wonka when one imagines the chocolatier. However, Boehm’s Candies and its founder, Julius Boehm, have a prolific history that can occasionally bring the musings of Roald Dahl to mind.

Julius Boehm was a native Austrian and grandson to a chocolatier. After escaping from Austria to Switzerland during the Nazi regime, he immigrated to the Pacific Northwest and soon founded his confectionary shop in Washington. The business became a small pocket of Austria nestled in the Issaquah valley, and a sanctuary for the Austrian refugee.

A Swedish architect and craftsman was contracted by Boehm to design a European chalet in Swedish and Austrian aesthetic that would house his store and factory.

Following the days of Boehm’s management, the business continues to maintain its semblance to its Austrian heritage.

The chalet is available to tours and exhibits a collection of paintings, portraits, and other cultural relics assembled by Julius Boehm including paintings such as a portrait of Kaiser Wilhelm.

The factory’s exterior comprises of a large grounds area surrounding the chalet that includes the alpine chapel, several wall murals, and statues including an impressive sculpture of the Greek god Pan.

Today Boehm’s Candies has expanded well beyond their Issaquah retail location by manufacturing individualized chocolate products for many Northwest businesses.

Of course Boehm’s specialty remains producing hand-made high quality chocolate for their local customers. Their selection consists of over 150 varieties of chocolates originating from all over the world.

The Boehm’s chalet is accessible immediately off of I-90, designated by Issaquah’s only “tourist attraction” sign.