150 Boise icons: Lee's Candies

awebb@idahostatesman.comJune 25, 2013 

Did you know? Lee’s uses classic recipes and has candy-making experts on staff, including those who have been with the company for around 40 years. Pictured here: Lee Nokleby displaying a 3-pound box of candy in 1975. He lived to be 99.


Boise loves its Foothills. It loves its bikes. It loves its dogs and brewpubs. It also loves its candy. Several readers nominated Lee's Candies as a Boise icon.

The store has changed locations once in its 66 years in business. Between 1947 and 1971, it was at 820 Jefferson St. (where McU Sports is today). It moved to 840 S. Vista Ave. in Vista Village on the Boise Bench in 1972.

Lee's has always been a Nokleby family operation. L.G. Nokleby left his Idaho home as a teenager just before the turn of the 20th century. He "rode the rails" in search of adventure. He ended up learning the candy business from some of the finest candy companies in cities like New York and San Francisco, said his grandson, Curtis Nokleby, Lee's Candies current proprietor. L.G. arrived in San Francisco just after the infamous earthquake and fire in 1906. L.G. opened his first candy store in 1911 in the Dewey Palace Hotel in Nampa.

He eventually left the candy business, but convinced his son Lee - Curtis' father - to open the shop on Jefferson Street.

Curtis has been a part of Lee's Candies since he was in a playpen in the back room while his parents worked. He has invented a few confections since taking over the shop - a raspberry cream, a cherry walnut cream, a sea salt caramel. But most of the candy Lee's makes uses the same recipes L.G. Nokleby brought back from his travels.

Butter almond toffee, classic caramels and most of Lee's cream centers haven't changed in decades. One of the most popular items: orange cream chocolates.

"Because I grate the whole orange into it," said Curtis.

One secret of Lee's success (and a good word to add to your cooking repertoire): "mazetta." It's the homemade marshmallow cream made with egg whites that goes into all of Lee's cream chocolates. Other companies mix their creams from powder. Curtis doesn't worry about revealing his secrets.

"Just because you have a recipe doesn't mean you can make it taste good. There's still some magic," he said.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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