Doug and Sheri Mohre embrace the town’s Western heritage
The fact that two of the Methow Valley’s most iconic figures, Doug and Sheri Mohre, are representing Winthrop in its 74th annual ’49er Days celebrations as Grand Marshal and Lady simply couldn’t be sweeter.
After all, the former owners of Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe have been a vital and prominent part of ’49er Days for the past 24 years, with Doug delighting children as “The Candyman” (in a 100-pound candy-laden duster coat) and Sheri managing the hordes lining up for candy and ice cream at the landmark sweet shop that still bears her name.
But this year the Mohres will, for once, take a seat at ’49er Days, at least for the duration of the parade. Riding in a horse-drawn carriage and dressed in vintage finery, the Mohres will simply be waving to the throngs of parade-goers, the majority of whom have quite likely satisfied a sweet tooth at Winthrop’s sweetest store at one point or another.
A little over 25 years ago, the Mohres were living in Mukilteo and working for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), but they were looking for a change. “We wanted a seasonal business,” says Doug. “We knew we wanted to live in a place where we could ski and hike and where we could work hard for six months and play hard for six months.”
Undecided at first
A friend tipped the Mohres off to a building for sale on Winthrop’s main intersection —prime real estate in a blossoming tourist town. The Mohres looked at the building and the site and promptly signed a two-year lease with a purchase option, without having a clear vision of what business they’d start there.
“We weren’t sure what we’d do,” says Sheri, with a surprising nonchalance about an entrepreneurial decision that must have been at least moderately stressful at the time, “but we talked to locals and what we heard over and over again was ‘We want a fun, family-oriented place to go.’ So we decided to go with ice cream.”
Doug trained with a candy maker in Seattle, and took to it like, well, like a bee to honey. Doug, it seemed, had a knack for the art of confection creation.
Over the years, in response to requests from locals and visitors alike, the Mohres added to the original sweet shop, eventually opening an espresso stand, a bakery and a miniature golf course. The Mohres laugh when they recount the different activities they experimented with in the space now occupied by mini-golf. “First we tried panning for gold,” says Doug. “And don’t forget about the maze!” Sheri chimes in. “Mini-golf stuck,” they agree, and a glance down to the river-level golf course on any summer afternoon confirms this sound business decision.
For the Mohres, embracing Winthrop’s Westernization came later, but embrace it they eventually did. “At first we didn’t get it,” says Doug. “It just didn’t make sense to us. But after owning a business here for three years and constantly hearing visitors talk about how unique this place is, we started to realize how much Westernization was responsible for that.”
He continues, “You can stand on Main Street [Riverside Avenue] and look in both directions and you won’t see a single commercial logo. That’s very unusual.”
“People often don’t realize what it is that catches their attention,” says Sheri. “But once they put their finger on it, they say they can’t think of another place where they’re not able to see a logo for, say, a [ubiquitous coffee shop] or [global retail store].”
The Mohres soon jumped in wholeheartedly with the Westernization proponents, and remain supporters to this day. “This is really a unique place,” Doug emphasizes. “We’ve got a lot of new business owners in town. I hope they realize that and stay true to what Winthrop was designed to be. It’s great for business, which is great for everyone.”
After running Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe for 24 years, the Mohres sold the business to Tate and Kyle Johnston, who moved to the valley to take over the popular confectionery, where they continue the Mohres’ tradition of making ice cream and a variety of candies from scratch, including fudge, caramel, peanut brittle, and English toffee. Tate is working on something similar to Doug’s Candyman suit in hopes of carrying on Doug’s legacy as the store’s representative — and probably most-popular figure — on the parade route.
The Mohres, meanwhile, will carry out their ceremonial duties as Grand Marshal and Lady during the parade — a parade that they have never before actually watched due to their duties as parade participants and business managers. And then, answering another call of duty, they’ll head over to the sweet shop to assist with the post-parade games like the egg toss (Doug) and help out with what will undoubtedly be the scooping of hundreds of ice cream cones (Sheri).
Saturday night will find the Mohres presiding over the coronation and barn dance at the Winthrop Barn. After that, they say, they’ll get back to some of the projects around their West Chewuch home that they’ve been putting off for 24 years.
Since selling Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe in 2018, the Mohres have been balancing the conflicting demands of retired life. “We trained Kyle and Tate last year,” says Doug, “and then in the late fall we started traveling.” Sheri explains that they started in Scotland and made a tour of Europe that focused on attending as many Christmas bazaars as possible in small towns.
Bikers, skiers and hikers, the Mohres then “made REI very happy,” says Sheri. “We bought everything we needed there to finally start enjoying the valley in the summer. We’re still figuring out what we like to do. We never had time to do that before.”
The Mohres recently returned from a trip to southern Italy and are much refreshed, but the to-do list still looms large, including helping the Johnstons get ready for the busy season at the store. “We don’t yet have time to do nothing,” Doug says, seemingly without regret.
As for ’49er Days, the Mohres are adamant about its importance to the town. “It’s the kickoff to the summer,” says Doug, “it’s the pass opening, the season starting. It’s celebrating our Western heritage.”
“It is,” says Sheri, “exactly what Winthrop stands for.”