Friday, August 25, 2017

Sarah's Candy Cottage closing after 19 years in business

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If you’re planning to say goodbye to Sarah’s Candy Cottage you have until Saturday at 6 p.m. Idaho Falls’ top purveyor of sweets is closing its doors for good after nearly 20 years in business. The fixtures are being sold off next week, and according to East Idaho News the building, at 221 N. Woodruff Avenue, is slated to be torn down.

Mike Swendsen and his daughter, Liz Yasaitis, opened Sarah’s in 1998 at 1503 E. 17th Street, where Great Harvest Bread Co. still is. They moved to their own store on Woodruff a few years later.

According to their Facebook page, the store is being “retired.” Twenty years for a small business like Sarah’s is a great run. Times change, people's lives change and the world moves on.

If you're curious, here is the business profile I wrote about them for the Post Register in July 1999:

For those people whose knowledge of licorice extends only so far as Twizzlers in the candy machine, Michael Swendsen has a message he wants to impart: There is a whole world' s worth of licorice to be experienced.

The same goes for chocolates and fudge. Swendsen, owner of Sarah' s Candy Cottage in Idaho Falls, is ready to give anyone who walks in his door a sample of what' s available. It may be from England, Germany or Australia, or it might be from his kitchen. All Swendsen wants it to be is special.

"We felt like there was an opportunity to open an old-time candy store, with toffee, peanut brittle, scratch made fudges and truffles," he said. "We cater to a little different customer."

The shop, named after Swendsen' s daughter, Sarah, now 28, is located in the same 17th Street building as Great Harvest Bread Co. This is a fortunate arrangement, because the people who are looking for specialty baked goods are likely to be the same people inclined to buy specialty candies.

Swendsen is generous with his samples and estimates that 15 to 20 percent of his gross is given away. "Feed them on their way through and get them to buy on the way out," he said.

The store has only been in operation for a year, so there is a great deal to be done to raise public awareness. But Swendsen is hoping the national trends are on his side. In the past 15 years, candy consumption in the United States has increased dramatically, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce. In 1984, the average American ate 18.9 pounds of candy. In 1997, the last year for which figures were available, the number was 24.9 pounds.

Likewise, candy sales in 1984 were $6.6 billion. In 1997, that number was more than double, $13.3 billion. Total candy consumption in 1997 was 7.1 billion pounds, of which 3.1 billion pounds was chocolate.

Swendsen first got interested in candy when he had the Helmsman restaurant in downtown Idaho Falls, then the Bylander, a combination delicatessen and bakery. "I've always been interested in the making of candy," he said.

Since 1978, Swendsen has run Phase Applications, a company that services substations for rural electrification associations and utilities. But that business wanes in the winter, exactly the opposite of candy making operations, which have their busiest time from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Three years ago he bought Candyland, in the Teton Plaza. But that store didn' t have a kitchen, dealing only in commercial candies. "My interest was really in making candy," he said.

Swendsen has two candy makers working for him, Ray Franco and Eva Niederer. He makes items himself, but admits he is "very young in the craft."

"It's a trade, like a butcher," said Bill Mundy, of Schurra' s Candy Factory in San Jose, Calif., a business that has been around since 1912. "There are good butchers and bad butchers. How good do you want to be? How much pride do you take in your work?"

In a major metropolitan area, with competition from 15 See's Candy stores, Mundy relies on customer loyalty and promotions to give him visibility. When the symphony has a fund-raiser, he puts chocolates on the tables in exchange for an ad in the program.

Said Swendsen, "There are people who have a passion about what they do. I do this because I love it. It's an expression of something I really enjoy." To make good candy, getting good ingredients are important.

Swendsen buys the best he can find, which might mean buying a quart of Amaretti vanilla for $120. The shop also has factory-made candy for sale, and a large selection of sugar-free candies for diabetics. He said there has been a significant number of customers from Jackson, Wyo., who tend to come in on Saturday.

"People are longing for skillfully produced goods and services, and presentation beyond mass merchandising. We really want to make people feel welcome."

3 comments:

  1. Sad to see a great place go. Should have gone there more often. They had great stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Paul, do you know what is being built behind Kohls on Eagle Drive in Ammon?

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's sad to here the news. Thank you for sharing. Should have bought more stuff here.
    piknu

    ReplyDelete