After 20 years at its spot along Dolliver Street in Pismo Beach, an iconic taffy shop is moving because it can no longer afford the rent.
“We had to get out of here because the rent went up so high we just couldn’t handle it,” Roger Tomasko, who owns Tomasko’s Salt Water Taffy, said.
Tomasko said his rent jumps from $7,200 to $12,000 by June 1, so he’s not renewing his lease.
“(It’s) kind of a little shock and queasiness in your stomach,” Tomasko said.
It’s a stomach ache that no amount of taffy sales can cure and Tomasko fears other anchor businesses in downtown Pismo may soon face rising rents as well.
But he’s going to keep his 31-year-old business going because to close his doors would be like taking the sand out of the beach.
“Salt water taffy means the beach,” Tomasko said. “You get it at the beach, you go to the beach and get salt water taffy.”
Tomasko is the West Coast Willie Wonka of his own candy factory in Pismo. It’s a dream he’s had since childhood.
“When I was a little kid, 3, 4, 5 years old, the best day of the whole summer was when my mother took me to the candy store and I watched them make candy,” Tomasko said. “It’s a labor of love, I was born to do this and I just love it.”
He spun that love for taffy pulling into a career more than 30 years ago, with two decades of that time spent on the corner of Dolliver Street.
“We have been here before, it’s almost a little family tradition,” Bakersfield resident Royce Haislip said. “We come by and walk down the pier when it’s open and grab some taffy and go home.”
For Haislip’s family, a trip to Pismo Beach wouldn’t be complete without some Tomasko’s taffy.
“That’s one of the nice things about here, come in and get your own flavor,” Haislip said.
“There’s been so many people coming here so long, I know everybody,” Tomasko said.
But after Memorial Day, Tomasko won’t see those familiar faces walk through the same door.
He plans to move into two smaller shops on Cypress Street, the same street where he first opened his business.
Tomasko said his goal is to have the shops open by the big July 4 carnival in Pismo Beach.
The property manger could not be reached Saturday.