To say Old Town Sweet Shop has been a “labor of love” is an understatement; especially the ‘labor’ part. The concept has been tweaked so many times that the ending has no resemblance to the beginning. I began the store as a way to escape the world of corporate sales, knowing that I was destined to work for myself. The original concept was to open a coffee house not a candy store. As a San Diego transplant, I knew the concept could work in the growing Temecula Valley since you could count the number of coffee houses in the area on less than one hand. As a lover of coffee, I thought a coffee house with a great casual vibe…comfy chairs and couches, books that could be borrowed, live music at night, barrels of coffee beans that could be scooped and purchased, etc. was just the ticket for Temecula and my dream of self-employment.
So how did I go from that idea to the candy and ice cream shop we have today? Well, it’s simple… you buy an existing candy store. Okay, it wasn’t that simple; a good friend of mine came across a candy store that was going out of business and they had all these barrels that held that candy. Knowing about the coffee house concept, my friend passed on the info about the barrels. When I met with the owner of the candy store, I was told that I could have the barrel but only if I bought everything else too! Well, I bought everything and packed it up and put into storage until I found a location. This is when the real adventure began in seeking the ideal location for the new coffee house and researching the rules and regulations that go hand-in-hand with opening a coffee house. To make a long story short, over the next couple of months my husband Marc and I came to the realization that it didn’t make much sense to go to the expense of opening a coffee house when we in fact owned a candy store so Temecula Country Store opened in November 1999.
The first significant change was our move from our original location in a small strip mall to beautiful Old Town Temecula. Old Town should have been our location all along but sometimes when you are learning as you go, you make a few mistakes along the way. Part of the move to Old Town involved taking a space that was significantly larger than what was needed, so the candy store also became an Antique & Craft Mall which was a popular concept at the time. I learned quickly that having 60 different “mini owners” all doing business in one store was quite a challenge and after a year I began to phase out these dealers. Now with only a quarter of the store actually dedicated to candy, I had to figure out what to do with the rest of the store, so over the years there were many interesting things going on inside Temecula Country Store. We had a British grocery that sold products from England, Ireland and Scotland and a spin-off from that was a Tea Room that took up about another quarter of the store. Both ventures were popular and successful but it soon became clear that Temecula Country Store was suffering from a major identity crisis. It was time to get serious about sweets and Old Town Sweet Shop was born.
Candy is the staple product of Old Town Sweet Shop but not just any candy, it’s all about retro candy that we grew up on as kids. With that as our mission, we searched for all the great old-fashioned, retro candy that people would remember from their childhoods. The most common statement we hear most in the store at any given time is “Do you remember these?” Seeing how popular the old-school candy was, we began to add other products that had the retro vibe; cool toys that you can’t find just anywhere, tin lunch boxes, metal signs, postcards and other items with old Hollywood and Rock n Roll greats on them. As our popularity grew, so did the demands for other great sweets. The next addition was a fudge kettle and we began making fresh-made fudge in over 20 different flavors. This was a huge hit and people love our fudge! Since the fudge was so popular, we decided to add custom chocolates made by our own in-house chocolatiers. Turtles, chocolate covered Oreos, chocolate covered pretzels and barks are just a few of the delicious items we make. We were feeling good about the success of the chocolates so we decided to add a few items that might seem a little off-the-wall. Chocolate covered potato chips, chocolate covered Twinkies (squirrel tails) and chocolate dipped fortune cookies are some of our most popular creations but chocolate covered bacon, YES, chocolate covered bacon is by far the most popular. Don’t knock it until you try it – it is that good. Let’s not forget about our gourmet Caramel & Chocolate apples or our delicious chocolate covered strawberries. Now things are getting good but something was still missing, I mean what else could go in a sweet shop? I’m sure you’ve guessed it by now… ice cream was the missing piece of our puzzle. We started out with just scoops but demand grew and grew for ice cream so we knocked out a wall and expanded our ice cream treats. Shakes, sundaes, banana splits and old fashion sodas are just a few of our new items for you to enjoy. So our little candy store that couldn’t even fill up our original space has certainly surpassed our expectations.
Old Town Sweet Shop is a family business and at any given time you will probably find at least one member of the family at the store. I keep a low profile but if you ever go in and see someone moving the displays around and changing the look to keep it fresh and new, that’s probably me. Marc is officially Operations Manager which means he takes care of problems that arise. He also loves interacting with customers and will jump in and serve up ice cream or sample fudge whenever needed. Marc is the “face” of Old Town Sweet Shop and acts as ambassador to our tourism, city and chamber partners and events. Our daughter Ali began working at the store when she was 7 dressing up as a Hershey’s Kiss and twirling a sign but now has her own business within the store where she sells some great touristy things like incense, car charms and sunglasses but also helps with ordering other items for the store. Our youngest daughter Jesse works events and weekends, helping out wherever she is needed. My brother Ron can be found scooping ice cream or sampling fudge for customers. My niece Lauren has recently joined the team and manages the ice cream side of the business. We also have several staff members that aren’t related but they are like family to us and we feel very blessed to have such great people that care not just about us and the business but about our customers as well.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my story and that you’ll stop by to see us whenever you happen to be in the area of Old Town Temecula.
Suzan and Milad Gendy
Old Town Sweet Shop