Made in the Northwest: Bruttles

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. – For decades, people in the Inland Northwest have enjoyed the delectable candies made by Bruttles. But it all started with Sophia Gerkensmeyer, or Great Aunt Sophie as she’s affectionately remembered, who created her now famous recipe in the early 1950s, while working as a candy maker at the Davenport Hotel.

“People came in, wanting something that wasn’t going to be so hard on their teeth when they had the regular, old fashioned brittle,” explained Bruttles owner Jessica Parkhurst. “So she developed a soft peanut butter brittle and it’s just kind of taken off from there.”

Little did Great Aunt Sophie know that soft peanut butter brittle would remain a Spokane favorite some 70 years later.

“Everybody comes for it. They love it. People take it with them on vacation to go see their family,” said Parkhurst.

She says Bruttles’ five full-time employees, plus its season help, take pride in the fact there are no machines in the candy making facility.

“We do everything by hand,” Parkhurst said proudly. “From the packaging, obviously the making, the packaging, the dipping, wrapping. Everything’s done by hand.”

Parkhurst believes machines would ruin the integrity of the candy, so the soft peanut butter brittle is made in small batches, six lbs. at a time.

“It’s cooked on a little two burner gas stove. We just mix it and put it out there, mix it on the slab and spread it out.”

Some say it looks like Cold Stone Creamery, mixing toppings into its ice cream.

But, of course, the soft brittle is far from the only candy made by Bruttles.

“We make butter toffee, we make all kind of white chocolate barks, caramels, soft cashew butter brittle, where we make our own cashew butter,” said Parkhurst.

Right now, she says is busy starting to fill orders for the holidays.

“Just ramping up, trying hopefully to be able to keep up this year. That’s our goal.”

But it won’t be easy, as Bruttles, like many other businesses, is having a hard time finding people to hire.

“We are a little short-staffed,” admitted Parkhurst. “We’re going to make it go the best we can.”

That’s why Parkhurst recommends ordering early this season, even though its downtown store is always ready for the holiday rush.

“We try to keep it stocked as well as we can at Christmas time. This time of year is great. It’s always stocked.”

Parkhurst would like to see Bruttles become a bigger brand, but there are two areas she won’t budge on.

“I’d like to grow it a little bit and see what we can do with it, but keep it local and keep it handmade.”

And we’re pretty sure that’s the way Great Aunt Sophie would want it.