For decades now, there has been a constant to almost every event that Nevada County has to offer.
The Celtic Festival. The Nevada County Fair. The Christmas party in the countryside. The Classic of Draft Horses. Attractions and audience may change, but you’ll always spot this iconic pink classic Chevrolet truck surrounded by Lazy Dog ice cream lovers.
Bob and Debbie Peterson have owned brick and mortar stores in the past – they sold their last such business, Lazy Dog Chocolateria at 111 Mill St. in Grass Valley, in June 2015.
But in recent years, the Petersons had stuck with their nomadic business model – until they decided, “on spur of the moment,” to open a pop-up store this fall. Chocolate lovers can find their favorite Lazy Dog treats at the Fowler Center, but only until the end of December.
“My husband told me that you are the only person I know who can open a candy store with what you have at home,” Debbie Peterson said with a laugh.
Stay at work
Peterson says she opened the pop-up after the Celtic Festival to keep her part-time staff employed a bit longer.
“We have the most amazing people ever, (and we’ve had it) for a very long time,” she said, naming Carolyn Thompson (a former employee of The Union) as the one who moved to the ‘Oregon but who always comes back every summer to work at the fair.
“They’re trying to convince me to stay” in space all the time, Peterson said. “The store is only 900 square feet, so it’s really doable with one or two people. … We’ll see what happens.”
Peterson said the pop-up can only sell pre-made candy and ice cream bars; a permanent retail location would require them to install multiple sinks, she said.
The pop-up is currently open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., although Peterson has said she plans to stay open longer as Christmas approaches.
“We love him,” she laughs.
The ice cream specialist is especially proud of a life-size magnetic scrabble board that takes up an entire wall of the pop-up.
“We had a mother and her child who came to play a whole game,” she said. “It was awesome.”
Peterson has been in the candy business for 40 years, telling The Union in an interview in 2007 that she learned her trade from an 83-year-old confectioner who wanted to pass her skills on. She opened her own store in the tourist town of Mantorville, Minnesota, and met Bob after he came to Rocky Road for ice cream.
A long story
The Petersons moved to Nevada City in the early 1980s and opened Confectionately Yours at the corner of South Pine and Broad streets; they sold this business 17 years later and took their candy on the road.
Lazy Dog ice cream rose to fame in Nevada County – and even sparked a political crisis in 2009, when the Grass Valley Downtown Association attempted to ban Lazy Dog from Thursday night summer markets.
The Petersons have no offspring, but Debbie likes to tell people that she has hundreds of children – customers who have been lining up in front of the Lazy Dog truck for years.
“A lot of these kids are bringing their kids” now, she said, adding, “We’ve been loving making them fat and happy for 30 years!”
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or email [email protected].