The sky is a cool blue, a few stray clouds scattered across the early spring sky. For the first time in a long time, many residents in downtown Kitchener can be seen out and about, sporting light sweaters and T-shirts, enjoying the taste of this new season. What many of them don’t realize, however, is that a far sweeter, more succulent taste is but a few minutes’ walk from the Charles Street bus terminal. Those who know of it know it well, but for most, Candy Candy Candy is one of Kitchener’s best-kept secrets.
Clad in a bright purple and baby blue paint scheme, Candy Candy Candy practically glows with colour, especially when compared to the buildings beside it. The front window display is equally radiant, playing host to the store’s massive title sign and a multitude of boxes containing labels from several dozen well-known sweet treats. The inside of the store holds enough candy to run Willy Wonka out of town, with the one-room store filled to the brim with all manner of sweet confections, hailing from many different time periods from all over the world. In addition to the copious amounts of candy, the store also offers a large variety of classic rock and sci-fi themed figures, shirts and posters.
The real magic, however, happens beneath the sugar coating of the store in the mind of Dave Watson, Candy Candy Candy’s founder, staff and spirit.
“It’s one thing just to have candy, but it’s another to know it,” Watson said. “We specialize in both nostalgia of candy, as well as the more modern pop culture aspects of it.”
Watson believes providing excellent customer service is absolutely essential for keeping his business running smoothly. His positive, energetic approach to engaging his patrons leaves no questions about his success.
“The best part of my day is dealing with customers,” Watson said. “I’m always chatting with people about candy or comics, or really anything that’s on their mind.”
Watson got into the business of slinging pop rocks for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is gummy bears and lollipops are natural repressors of negative feelings. “Because we’re a candy store, we don’t really deal with bad-mood customers,” Watson said. “I can’t think of a time I’ve seen someone storm around here in a bad mood, so this is a pretty sweet deal.”
To keep up with the special requests from customers, in addition to providing a pleasant surprise for newcomers who visit, Watson is constantly filling the store with new kinds of candy, about two new types per week. He often visits popular Internet blogging sites like Reddit to acquire new information about what’s hot in the world of candy.
The world of small retail business is one that Watson is no stranger to. Five years ago, he and his wife owned and managed The Watcher Comics, a small comic business located in Toronto. Though that particular business venture didn’t end up working out, Watson has pressed on, his zeal for the retail business providing his motivation. That motivation would come in handy, especially creating the labour of love that is Candy Candy Candy.
“When we took this location, the place was filthy. The previous owner had actually ditched it in the middle of the night,” Watson said.
“Pretty much everything in here was built from ground-up. If it wasn’t at least painted, it was outright re-built. The store feels like ours, not just some rental unit we threw our stuff into.”
The effort Watson has put into this store, as well as his management style and outlook on the candy business, have given Watson a serious step-up on any would-be competition in the immediate area.
“No one in Kitchener is doing what we’re doing,” Watson said. “No one carries the nostalgia we carry. Every single aspect of the store is unique.”
So far, the store owner has faced down some pretty large obstacles and lived to tell the tale. Even though Candy Candy Candy has only been in business for two years, Watson has had to navigate the business through the treacherous waters of K-W construction and opening delays, all the while managing to keep himself in a very pleasing financial situation.
“I wouldn’t say I could retire next week, but I’m doing just fine,” Watson said.
Watson is thoroughly confidant in Candy Candy Candy’s ability to succeed, despite its small size and the not-so-stellar economy.
“We’re not as busy as we’d like to be, but we’re busier than expected,” he said. “We’re getting much better known and we’re only a couple of months into our second year now. So yeah, it’s business as usual.”
Candy Candy Candy is open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. You can reach the store at 519-742-0333, or check them out at facebook.com/candycantletyougo or Twitter @candyrepeat2.