Sweet News on Washington Street - Little Red Sweet Shoppe Opens

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
April 7th, 2009

Each day lately the news seems to bring word of failing companies, main street shops closing their doors and corporate giants being propped up with public money. In the heart of a global economic slowdown it’s always nice to report any bright spots in the business world and this week saw some “sweet” news for downtown Rossland.

This past Monday a literal stampede of sugar craving kids and adults alike bombarded the Little Red Sweet Shoppe in search of sugar, sugar and more sugar in its various forms. Opening the doors at 11:30am with the thought of a soft opening and easing into the new business, their first day saw a mad rush of candy hungry kids storming the shop. The owner/operators Janelle and Blair Newell’s three kids, two of whom are in grade school, it turns out, had been running a tour de force marketing campaign, spreading the word that the sweet shop was opening.

“It’s been crazy. The first day when we opened we had a bit of a lunch rush just because people noticed that the paper was out of the windows so people came in and checked it out and that was not too bad,” said a smiling Janelle. “At 2:30, when word got out, it went nuts. My two kid were letting everyone know that, yeah, the shop is now open and the kids just stampeded down the hill. The first day afterschool we had 100 people in the shop and my husband and I were just like, ‘wow we weren’t expecting that’. It was a great first day. The next day my husband printed off a sign that said ‘10 student limit’ in the store because it was so chaotic in here we couldn’t help everyone properly.”

The shop was designed purely around the idea of having a fun environment where all ages could come in, enjoy themselves, and satisfy their sweet tooth.

Offering everything from home baked brownies, retro candy, popcorn of all types of flavours, hot dogs, cheesy nachos, frozen lemonade, hard scoop ice cream cones and ice cappuccinos through to high end chocolates (if you’re looking for a sugar buzz), Janelle and Blair can certainly fill your fix.
Relocating to Rossland 18 months ago from their previous home of ten years in Vernon, the enterprising couple got the idea to launch the new candy shop business from their daughter, who is a self-described candy freak.

“We moved to Rossland, I guess it will be two years ago in August. When we first moved here we were in the middle of building a house and we wanted to get some sort of business going. My daughter is a big fan of candy. She and I talked a little bit about it, I thought it was a great idea but we kind of left the idea for a while because we were busy with building the house. Over the winter in December we started thinking about it again and thought if I’m going to go for it I might as well just do it. So these last three months with the renovations of the building and finding suppliers and getting set up have been really busy,” explained Newell.

The storefront, which previously had been occupied by the Sears outlet, has undergone a complete transformation in the past three months and is completely unrecognizable inside from its former incarnation. Janelle and Blair did all of the work themselves–realigning the space, building shelving, moving around the electrical and plumbing, and generally creating a space that screams out ‘fun’.

With a wealth of business experience behind them (they have run a number of their own enterprises previous to moving here), thoughts of economic slowdowns and recessions never fazed them.

“In Vernon I did Russian toffee and made that and sold it to coffee shops that sold it in town. My husband and I also ran a wine making store. That wine making store ran for five years in Vernon and then we decided to make a change in our lifestyle and moved out where with the three kids. The whole recession thing and all of the news has been kind of depressing and when we thought about it we figured, ‘we can’t stop living, we can’t shut what we want to do down’, so it was a now-or-never type of thing and we just went for it,” said Newell, clearly proud of her accomplishments and excited about the new business.

Chatting in the shop this week, Blair noted that they’re now facing a very nice problem to have–potentially running low on stock. Blair explained that there is a certain amount of advance time needed to get your orders in to a lot of the candy companies and business has been so good in the first few days they are rushing to get their second stock order in to keep up with the demand.

“Right now and over the next few months we’ll keep playing with what works best and organizing the product based on what people are most looking for. We’re still working out the kinks now to see what works and what doesn’t as we go along,” added Janelle.

While still in their first week of business, the couple is already looking down the road at expanding their offerings and bringing in new items. “We’re trying to look for more of the retro candy and more of the British sweets. I do want to carry higher end chocolates and maybe gearing towards more sugar free items for diabetics and trying to find some chocolate truffles for that section of the store.”

Eighteen months into their new life in Rossland, the couple seem to be loving their new small town life and are excited about the future. They are looking forward to completing their house and having fun with the candy shop and their kids; Rossland has certainly struck a chord with the Newells and, judging by the throngs of happy kids going in and out of the shop, it’s fair to say that Rossland’s youth are as happy to have them as they are to be here.

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