By Sue Moore
Who doesn’t like candy for Valentine’s Day asks Mandy Kokales as she points out the many possibilities in her store for those with a sweet tooth.
It’s not just Valentine’s Day that brings customers in, Kokales, notes as she has been open for a year in Vicksburg on S. Main Street. It’s the many gift boxes she creates and the beautiful array of candy she stocks to please anyone’s palate, she says.
For Valentine’s Day she has made up gift boxes of differing sizes that contain some of her homemade chocolates, a healthy nut mix, hard candies that sell from $2.50 to $12. Gift baskets that are more elaborate range from $10 to $25. “It helps if the customer knows what their special lady likes and then we can make up a gift that is individualized for that extra touch,” she says.
“I’ve learned that the customer comes first. If you provide good customer service they will come back often and you can brighten their day. It’s the personal touch with fresh high quality candy, packaging ideas, samples of chocolates she provides, and the nostalgia candy she carries that is popular with young and old alike,” she adds.
Some people doubted that a store selling just candy could make a go of it, particularly in a small town, she points out. “It’s been a dream of mine to open a retail store along with a belief that everyone likes candy.” The genesis of the idea came to Kokales when she created the ‘candy girls’ in 1991 as a student in college in San Diego. “I needed money to get home to Michigan. I dressed up as an old-fashioned cigarette girl and had a friend who did the same. We sold out all our candy supplies in minutes. We’ve been recreating the idea for special events in downtown Vicksburg this past year.”
“We’ve created some new events for birthday parties, with a candy buffet, revealing parties for baby showers and craft parties right in the store. I’m also into supporting my community and have recently donated candy baskets for the Cub Scouts silent auction, the Lions Club, Cancer Society, and the Jazz Band’s Air Zoo concert,” Kokales says. “My daughters Regena (16) and Belle (12), help out with the store as they tell me what their generation of teens like best. Of course, they just work for candy,” she concludes.