[heading] by: KATHY LOY | photos by Soul of Photography [/heading]

When they call you “Salty Sisters” you know there is a story behind it. Actually, Gretchen Bender is supposed to be the more salty and Lisa Bender a bit sweeter, but this dynamic combination of salty and sweet is a winning combination personally and professionally with the candy they make.

Gretchen and Lisa live in the Foxpoint community of Leucadia and say they are inspired by their kids, family and neighbors, who also act as taste-testers for their candy. They feel a strong connection to the area and a responsibility to give back to the community. “We try to donate gift baskets, cash, and candy to any and all local organizations that ask,” explained Gretchen.

Before getting involved in the candy business, Gretchen was in public administration and most recently was the Dean at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo. Lisa was a firefighter/EMT and then focused on being a mom. Even though their company got started just last year, candy making has been in their families for decades. “My grandparents owned a candy company, Golden Empire, for years before my parents took it over,” said Lisa. Gretchen started early too. “I began making caramel 14 years ago after my father was treated for throat cancer,” she said. “The radiation destroyed his sense of sweet taste, but he still craved the mouth feel of sweets. I came up with a honey-vanilla caramel that’s rich and chewy, but also very soft and easy on your mouth.”

One family member in particular may get the credit for some of the women’s success. “My Aunt Dorothy used to make our ‘Claim to Fame’ almond toffee for the holidays and passed down the recipe before she passed away,” said Lisa. Using this recipe and more, Sea Salt Candy Co. was launched last year in Leucadia where they keep it local – using almonds from Chico, chocolates from San Francisco, sea salt from Sonoma and dairy from Central California.

When they aren’t creating delectable confections, Gretchen and Lisa might be found at home with their families, at the beach or a maybe even a local watering hole. “We love to play what we call ‘extreme surf Frisbee’, where Lisa throws the Frisbee just out of my reach in the surf and I dive to catch it in the water, explained Gretchen. “We also like exploring the beer scene around San Diego and finding brews to pair with our candy or actually use in our candy,” said Lisa. It sounds like a perfect pairing.

[tabs] [tab title=”At a Glance”]

Name: Gretchen Bender (41), Lisa Bender (37)

Profession: Candy Makers/Chief Salty Sisters

Children: Normandie(21), Hannah (16), David(3)

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