Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there is a Candy Aisle

Like Virginia, I was not sure if there was a Candy Aisle in Steveston.

Sure, I had heard about the great selection, the friendly owners, and the fact that they hire local high school kids for part-time help now and then. But up till a few weeks ago, it was as abstract as the black swan.

Then I decided to check it out for myself. I sent an email to the Candy Aisle website and asked if I could feature them on this blog. Of course I could, came the enthusiastic answer!

The Steveston shop is actually Candy Aisle’s first franchise. In addition to the head office in Burnaby, there are two Vancouver locations, one on Robson Street and the other on West 4th Avenue.

“My partner and I met with Candy Aisle owner Jason about opening a Candy Aisle store. Within one week, a retail space opened up in Steveston. Thirty days later, on July 18, 2009, we were up and running,” says shop owner Nicole. “It was as though it was just meant to be.”

Six months after opening day, Nicole has yet to meet a grumpy customer. “We have been getting a great response from the community. We get a real mix of happy customers. One of my favourite customers is a two-year old who walked confidently through the door last December and said, ‘Oh ya.’ The 50+ group also admits to feeling like kids when they set foot in the store. ”

And no wonder. Everywhere you look, you see the sweet stuff. You can get local goodies, of course, but the store’s inventory also hails from as far away as Australia, Great Britain, and South Africa. “A lot of candy and novelty stuff are from the US and we also have licorice from the Netherlands,” adds Nicole, “and, of course, we carry chocolate bars.”

Out of this plethora of lip-smacking treats, Nicole couldn’t pinpoint a single bestseller. But the bulk section tends to draw a crowd. Customers just naturally gravitate towards the wall of gumballs, Gummi bears, Jelly Bellies, caramels, salt water taffy, etc., which they can mix and match for $1.99 per 100 grams.

Bulk food section

The M&M's corner also attracts hardcore candy devotees. Two rows of tall plastic dispensers are stacked vertically and hold twenty rainbow colours. That’s enough colours to inspire the creative streak in just about everybody. Think pink and blue for baby showers, red and yellow and blue for home-made cookies, and seasonal colours for whimsical Christmas confections. "There is a lady who is a Seattle Seahawks fan and she buys the blue and grey ones," adds Nicole.

The M&M's section

The gross candy section also holds a peculiar fascination for the younger set. It offers treats that test even the most adventurous palates. Would you believe scorpions, larvae, and insects? Last fall, at a little girl's tenth birthday party, a game was arranged where, to win an extra point, a team must eat chocolate covered crickets and worms. Real crickets and worms. Ugh! I couldn't crunch on creepy crawlies, even if they are embedded in a lollipop, dipped in white chocolate, or smothered in BBQ and Cheddar Cheese flavourings.

Gross candy, anyone?

You will be glad to know that Candy Aisle is open seven days a week. Just make your way down Second Avenue and look for the bright red and white sandwich board. And here’s a juicy tidbit for you, Nicole is planning a surprise for her customers in honour of the 2010 Olympics.

Nicole in candy land

While you’re wondering what this delicious surprise could be, let me leave you with some candy factoids I pulled off the Candy Aisle Twitter site:

· The world's largest chocolate bar weighs 2.67 tons at the Plaza Singapura of Singapore
· The world's Biggest Dispenser of Pez stands 7 foot 10 inches tall - over 20 times the size of a normal Pez dispenser
· The Gummi bear is a German creation by Hans Riegel, invented in 1922.

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