New candy store offers old-time feel in Carnegie
The customer reached for a pack of Honees honey-filled hard candies.
“I can't get these anywhere. These are so good,” John Sciulli, 43, of Carnegie said with a smile at the Candy Barrel, which opened June 10 in Carnegie.
That's exactly the type of comment store owner Victoria Minor wants.
“I want people to come here and find things … that you can't go out and just find,” she said while showing off the nostalgia-inducing and other hard-to-find sweets that fill her shop, which is about the size of a one-car garage.
Minor said she wanted to open a store the borough needed.
“With the up and coming of Carnegie and seeing what retail stores came in, I thought it would be nice to have a candy store,” she said.
Minor said she expects the store to do well, but she's “not out to make a million dollars.”
She already has her “million dollars.” After all, she has a box of Million Dollar Bars among the chocolate bars on one of her shelving units.
Minor, of the Cubbage Hill section of Carnegie, said she has 43 years of experience in the food-and-beverage industry, including owning two former west-suburban restaurants, each called Victoria's Deli.
More recently, she said, she was the kitchen lead at the GetGo in Scott.
Her shop is filled with old-time candies and gums — plastic bags of circus peanuts; cloth bags of Gold Mine Nugget Bubble Gum; rolls of Necco Wafers.
Other classic names on wrappers include Valomilk, Goo Goo Cluster and Squirrel Nut Zippers.
Barrels and baskets are full of individually wrapped candies with classic names such as Atomic FireBall, Black Jack or root beer barrel or wax-paper-wrapped salt water taffy in flavors such as huckleberry, pineapple and banana split.
People don't have to worry about buying an unfamiliar candy untasted.
“I always tell customers to sample,” Minor said.
She has been doing a lot of sampling, too.
“I've been eating a lot of taffy,” she said. “I've never had so much taffy in my life.”
Minor also has been learning a lot about the candy business.
“I go online, and I research a lot of it. I see what's out there, and I want to keep it vintage,” she said.
Minor intentionally doesn't stock some popular candies.
“I don't have M&M'S … Reese's Pieces and stuff everybody has — that I want to stay away from,” she said.
Minor said some of her favorite treats in the store are the coconut candies — the Creamy Coconut Patties made by Anastasia Confections and Candy Farm bars — 3 Color Coconut, a bar of coconut candy that has stripes flavored with strawberry, vanilla and chocolate, and the similar-looking but watermelon-flavored Watermelon Slice.
And then there's the salt water taffy, which she purchases from a vendor in Wisconsin.
“I get different flavors every time,” she said. “They have so many great flavors.”
She also is a sucker for black licorice.
“This is all I do all day,” she said while enjoying a black-licorice Scottie dog. “I said I'm going to end up with sugar diabetes.”
In addition to vintage candy, Minor also wanted her store to have a vintage look. Her stock is in barrels or baskets or on wooden shelves.
The custom-made wooden counter has barrels incorporated into it.
“I wanted to keep it old-fashioned,” said Minor, who didn't want to sell her candy out of the plastic tubes that some stores have. “It's Carnegie. I wanted to keep it the old way.”
Sciulli, the customer who loves Honees candies, picked up five packs, along with a bag of circus peanuts, a bag of multicolored Swedish Fish and a few packs of Fish Kabob jelly candies.
The repeat customer gave plenty of reasons he likes the new store: “It's local, No. 1.”
“I like how personable the owner is,” he said. “This is stuff you just can't get at GetGo.”
And, as he paid, he thought of something else: “All the candy's fresh. You get circus peanuts anywhere else, they're hard as a rock.”
Madelyn Dinnerstein is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.