Buford Seals and Bernice Townsend, Ocean Beach, California.
Buford Seals and Bernice Townsend, Ocean Beach, California.

Buford Seals, The Candyman (Gone)

Field review by the editors.

Ocean Beach, California

Buford Seals (1919-2008) was one of three vets who made a fortune selling army surplus in the Seattle area after World War II. Described as a "zany entrepreneur," Seals took his profits and sank them into a $2 million cowboy-themed Seattle shopping center, Frontier Village. Its gas station, now the only surviving part, is the iconic Hat n' Boots.

Buford later claimed that he had designed the Hat n' Boots, which got the real designer, Lewis Nasmyth, so angry that he had the design patented, and refused to talk to Buford for 30 years.

Buford lost all of his Frontier Village money and eventually moved to San Diego, where he opened a candy store in Ocean Beach named Buford's. Open 24 hours a day, it offered more than 2,000 kinds of candy, as well as fish bait, ice cream, and hot dogs. It was popular with the surf crowd, and those nodding over from "The Black," a famous head shop just around the corner. After 20 years in Ocean Beach, the store briefly moved to Point Loma, where it operated until Buford's retirement in 1995.

Buford ran Buford's with his galpal, Bernice Townsend, a former Barnum and Bailey circus acrobat. They wore matching Western outfits and traveled around town in a white stretch limo painted with Buford's nickname, "The Candyman."

According to Allan Phillips, who spearheaded the restoration of the Hat n' Boots, Buford returned to Seattle for a brief visit in the early 2000s. "He kept taking about schemes to use the Hat n' Boots to make a bunch of money," said Allan. "He was a real huckster."

Also see: Hat n' Boots

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December 5, 2020

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