CLEVELAND — Valentine's Day is Sunday. It is one of the biggest days of the year for the chocolate and candy industry.
"We can pretty much satisfy anybody from two to 92," smiled Tom Scheiman, owner of b.a. Sweeties Candy Company.
Sweeties has been a beloved part of Cleveland for 70 years but has really found its sweet spot during the pandemic.
"It was terrible at the time, but very rewarding right now," said Scheiman.
He says it was terrible when the pandemic hit because Sweeties had to lay off 38 employees for 10 weeks. "We still paid their health insurance and all their benefits, but they had no pay," he said.
Sweeties also had to close its store at Pinecrest in Orange Village. "We just couldn't make it," said Scheiman. "The writing was on the wall that there's no way this is going to come back."
But comeback they have. Scheiman says they've since rehired everyone, plus more, and bought Cleveland's own Campbell's Sweets Factory.
"That's been incredible for us because we're now getting the popcorn brand out into more stores," he said.
Scheiman plans to convert the old Denny's restaurant at the front of Sweeties five-acre campus on Brookpark Road into a new Campbell's Sweets Factory and outlet store in late summer.
And, that's not all. Last month, Sweeties got a sweet surprise.
"We went viral on Facebook and TikTok," said Scheiman.
A woman shared photos of her trip to sweeties with her son, and the post took off. It was shared nearly 70,000 times.
"That Saturday it was like, 'Oh my goodness get some help in here!' we had lines everywhere," recalled Scheiman. "It was absolutely phenomenal!"
He says the extra attention and business haven’t slowed down and neither has his appreciation for that mom!
"Yeah, she's got candy for life," he laughed.
It is not just Sweeties. The U.S. chocolate and candy industry has weathered the pandemic well, says the National Confectioners Association. It is up nearly 5%.
"During these uncertain times, Americans are looking for little moments of joy and the confectionary industry has been resilient in this COVID-19 environment," said Lauren O’Toole Boland, with the National Confectioners Association.
With demand high, Scheiman says there are production and manufacturing shortages. He says Sweeties is only getting about 75-80% of their orders fulfilled.
But have no fear because there is still plenty here! "You could spend an hour and a half in this place just walking around all the aisles and getting a reminder of your childhood," he said.
Scheiman also says Sweeties is like an entertainment destination. Along with the aisles and aisles of candy, there is also a soda shoppe and mini golf is set to open around Memorial Day.
The National Confectioners Association found close to 90% of Americans plan to give the gift of chocolate or candy this Valentine's Day.
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