Children’s rituals really haven’t changed much over the years. When I sat down to talk with Shirley Hartwell, owner of Candy Dish, she told me that children still bring in their allowance to buy candy. She remembers doing the same thing when she was growing up. I also remember heading off with my brother to Welch’s Candy Shop (formerly located at Broadway and Granville) with our pocket money to buy bulk Smarties.
Hartwell believes every child dreams of owning a candy store. It appears that she — along with her husband, Ed Whitby, who co-owns the business — was destined to live her dream. Growing up in the tiny town of Alymer, Ontario, she worked as a young teenager in the bulk candy section at the local Metropolitan store. Her favourite shop in town was Sugar Bowl, which was where she spent her allowance.
Thirty years ago Hartwell moved to Steveston where she met her husband. Whitby works full time as a manager for a small manufacturer, and also works on Saturdays as the captain of the River Queen, which offers short river tours along Steveston’s waterfront. On Sundays you can find him manning Candy Dish. Whitby is known for testing children’s math as they pay for their candy, and he rewards them with a treat if they are correct with their accounting skills.
With a background in tourism (Hartwell owned and operated a tour guide agency for twelve years), she checked out candy stores everywhere she travelled. After having worked at Candy Bouquet (now Candy Dish) on a part-time basis, she knew this business was exactly what she was looking for, an old fashioned candy store in a village reminiscent of her home town in Ontario. Two years ago this Halloween eve at the witching hour, she and Whitby became the new owners.
Hartwell describes Candy Dish as a “happy store” which triggers memories for adults and puts smiles on children’s faces. She says that if customers are not happy when they come in, they are happy when they leave. Like a bartender, Hartwell knows many of her customers’ orders, as well as their names. She describes the shop’s location as being part of the “fun triangle.” Candy Dish is on the circuit which also includes Steveston Park and McDonald’s as destinations for children on their way home from school and for grandparents out on the town with their grandchildren.
Candy Dish carries a wide selection of nostalgic confectionary. Behind the counter are 65 jars of candy which will take customers on a trip down memory lane. An assortment of licorice, Thrills gum, Cherry Blossoms, old fashioned toffee, Tootsie Rolls, and saltwater taffy are some of the candies which will help you rediscover your inner child. A large selection of homemade fudge is made on site including seasonal flavours such as key lime in the summer, pumpkin pie and cranberry in the autumn, with candy cane and eggnog to tempt the taste buds at Christmas time. Their popular $2 candy bags are often what children will purchase with their allowance. Always receptive to customers’ requests, Candy Dish offers organic chocolate, sugar-free chocolate, organic suckers, peanut-free, gluten-free and kosher products.
October is breast cancer awareness month and it is a time that is particularly close to Hartwell’s heart. In memory of her dear friend Tracy, who lost her battle with breast cancer, Hartwell creates “Tracy’s pink fudge” with proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Society to help find the cure.
Hartwell brims with promotional ideas. She enjoyed gum as a child and is considering holding a bubble blowing contest. In the past she has held guess the number of jelly beans in the jar contests. Last Christmas, in conjunction with Bell’s Bake Shop, she hosted a candy house building workshop. They sell loot bags for birthdays, and they also create candy arrangements for parties as well as candy buffets for weddings. You choose the candy and they will arrange it in popcorn boxes, sundae glasses or even your own containers.
Hartwell and Whitby are huge fans of everything to do with Steveston. They live close by and enjoy cycling and walking. They enjoy the fine selection of restaurants in the village, and shop at Heringers and The Sweet Spot. Jokingly, Hartwell says “we have it all in Steveston…the butcher, the baker, and the candy maker.”
Working in a candy shop six days a week begs the question, what is Hartwell’s favourite treat? Being around candy all day long, she does not over indulge, however she does treat herself to a Charlie’s Chocolate Factory chocolate cranberry cluster – after all, dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants. Sweet dreams are made of this!
#120 – 3911 Moncton Street