Sweets Bakeshop and Sugar Sugar candy

Both shops offer delicious perspective on sweets

THE OTHER DAY, a small boy with a SpiderMan backpack walked into Sugar Sugar Candy in south Minneapolis, looked at the Willy Wonka-esque display of bulk gummy sweets and retro candy bars, widened his eyes, and said, "Wow!"

The shop specializes in unusual and hard-to-find candies—if Walgreens stocks it, Sugar Sugar probably doesn't. Owner Joni Wheeler is a constant presence behind the counter and helps customers make their selections by describing her wares, offering samples, and relaying historical tidbits. Did you know, for example, that Necco is the oldest candy company in the country? During the Civil War, soldiers stocked its sugary pastel wafers in their packs. In the 1930s, Admiral Byrd took 2.5 tons of Necco Wafers to Antarctica, causing Wheeler to wonder if the South Pole is littered with the least-popular, clove-flavored disks.

Wheeler's background is in retail—she's been in the floral, wedding cake, and costume businesses, and worked most recently at Paper Source—so she appointed the shop with a sharp eye for aesthetics. She has always loved advertising graphics, she says, and considers candy "the perfect vehicle to show off fun packaging."

Sweets turns scratch-made cupcakes into edible art
Steve Neuharth
Sweets turns scratch-made cupcakes into edible art
Sugar Sugar specializes in nostalgic and hard-to-find candies
Jessica Chapman
Sugar Sugar specializes in nostalgic and hard-to-find candies

Location Info

Map

Sweets Bakeshop

2042 Marshall Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55104

Category: Restaurant > Bakery

Region: Macalester/Groveland

Details

SWEETS BAKESHOP
2042 Marshall Ave., St. Paul
651.340.7138; Web site

SUGAR SUGAR CANDY
3803 Grand Ave., Minneapolis
612.823.0261; Web site




PHOTO TOURS:

Sweets Bake Shop

Sugar Sugar


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Before opening the shop, Wheeler painted the walls with the signature green of Paris's Ladurée pastry shop (as Tiffany blue is to jewelry, Ladurée green is to confections), mounted her collection of art nouveau chocolate boxes, and convinced the noted illustrator Elvis Swift to design the shop's logo in exchange for a lifetime of free merchandise. Then she started buying candy.

In came the orange slices, produced by Minnesota's Fritzie Fresh, the chocolate mustaches on sticks, and the chocolate bars flavored with bacon, Earl Grey tea, and pink peppercorns. She lined the shelves with British imports, including Nestle's light-as-air Aero bars and Cadbury's lacy, caramel-filled Curly Wurlys. She tracked down nostalgic favorites: Sky Bars, Blackjack gum, Mallo Cups, and Ice Cubes. She brought in candy-scented perfume (in case you want to smell of pistachio ganache) and bright candy baubles that double as necklaces and rings—New York fashion designers have used them recently in their runway shows.

Along one wall, glass apothecary jars are filled with bulk candies: limoncello marzipan nubs, organic gummy pandas, all-natural jelly beans, satellite wafers that taste like communion wafers filled with candy dots. An entire row contains licorice selections—apparently Minnesotans eat more of the stuff than residents of any other state. If you are the sort to debate the merits of Australian licorice versus Dutch, or licorice root terroir, this would be the place to do it.

One day I stopped in at Sugar Sugar and bought about $40 worth of candy that I'd never tried before, thinking it was pretty cool that was even possible considering how much candy I've eaten in my lifetime. Several of the things I sampled didn't win me over. The $3.50 Aero bar, for example, wasn't a whole lot more special than a handful of Andes mints. And with many of the retro candies, there's a reason their popularity has declined. If sour gummy worms had been around during the Civil War, I'm pretty sure the soldiers would have packed them instead of Neccos.

Still, I appreciated the chance to experiment with new candy and reconnect with a few old favorites. I took one bite of a Charleston Chew—the first time I'd tasted the chocolate-covered taffy plug in probably 20 years—and instantly I was a preteen, hanging out with my cousins at the municipal pool's concessions stand.

If there's a special candy you're looking for, Wheeler will take requests, though she hasn't been able to resurrect the Seven Up bar, a chocolate candy bar with seven flavored, goo-filled chambers, which St. Paul candy maker Pearson's retired back in 1979. In an effort to please a wide range of customers, Wheeler stocks candy for various budgets, tastes, and dietary restrictions, right down to the vegan candy bars made with rice-milk chocolate substitute that actually tasted just as good as a Snickers. "Everybody should be able to get something fun," she says. 

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