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Helen’s Candy Bar is a sweet success
11:00am Saturday 17th August 2013 in News
WITH enough sweets to make Willy Wonka green with envy the Candy Bar is a sugary jewel in Billericay’s crown.
The independent confectionery retailer is situated in the High Street in the heart of the town.
It stocks almost any sweet you care to mention, from chocolates in boxes or bar form to lollipops and liquorice.
There are also sugar-free treats, confectionery suited to special diets and novelty items.
Older customers will delight in the retro jars of sweets and traditional pick-and-mix on offer.
Owner Helen Anderson says: “We get customers aged from eight to 88.”
The mum-of-three set up the business initially as part of a franchise. But 18 months ago, she went solo and has been independent ever since. Helen, who has previously worked in London and at a Billericay school, says: “Owning my own business was on my bucket list. I see this shop as my entrepreneurial side coming out.”
By offering pick and mix, the Candy Bar is filling a gap left on the High Street by the closure of Woolworths.
And it’s more than school children who are enjoying the products Helen explains: “We get a lot of older people coming in. One man is so lovely and he comes in with a notepad and writes down his pick and mix choices, so that he never buys the same thing twice.
“Some come in for the social aspect and we get some of the regular orders ready for them, which they appreciate.
“We get a lot of people coming in before they head off to the cinema as well.”
As well as the front-of-house sweet selection, the Candy Bar offers a whole range of extras for parties, weddings and special occasions.
Helen and her team of six part-time staff also prepare confectionery bouquets and party bags.
Many products are available on the shop’s website and it is the online presence which has helped the company expand in surprising ways.
Helen says: “We have an excellent website man who can read the Google data.
He noticed there were a lot of people finding us online after searching for Sweet Trees.”
Enterprising Helen quickly realised the expensive and time-consuming confectionery trees were a hit with her customers, but did not make the shop much money.
She began stocking DIY sweet tree kits, which contain the essentials to make the tree frame, and allow customers to buy their own products to go on it. They have proved a massive success and are flying off the shelves.
But where did Helen, with no retail experience cook up the idea for her shop?
She says she found an unlikely influence during eight months living in New York with her husband.
Designer Ralph Lauren’s daughter, Dylan, heads up an extravagant Candy Bar brand in the Big Apple with all the trimmings.
When Helen first saw the shop her idea was born.
She says: “In typical American style, her shop spares no expense. It is like the Disney version of a sweet shop with amazing acrylic floors, really colourful and funky.
“I obviously don’t have her money, but she has been a massive influence.
“I opted against the dark wood-yle and have gone vibrant, colourful and fun.”
The Candy Bar has proved to be so successful it has been picked up by a major garden centre brand, which has agreed to open an outlet in its Billericay branch.
Part of the reason for the success is the staff’s focus on customer service.
Helen says: “I can’t compete with supermarkets on price, but I want every customer to leave thinking what a shop and what lovely staff.”
She has even won over the dreaded dentists who rang to compliment her on the shop’s sugar-free range.
So what sweet does Helen, queen of the sugar-toothed, choose as her own snack of choice?
“I’m more of a chocolate and cup of coffee person,” she confesses. “But there are certainly a lot of people who enjoy the things we sell.”
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