Address: 8655 River Crossing Blvd. and 2288 W. 86th St. (North Willow Mall)
Phone: 872-8720 (North Willow Mall), 580-1177 (River Crossing)
Web site: www.sweetthingsinc.com
Founder: Penni Brodey
Owner: Cassandra Schuchman
Service/product: candy and gifts
Revenue (past 12 months): $1.3 million
Date of first profile: Feb. 9, 1998
“Don’t mess with a good thing” has been Cassandra Schuchman’s mantra since buying Sweet Things candy and gift store 3-1/2 years ago. She has made some small changes, like expanding the line of high-end home décor items, and adding more sugar-free and nut-free candies. But she said she wouldn’t dare touch the way the all-important chocolate is made.
“The recipe is perfect,” Schuchman said.
Making candy is an intricate and delicate process that requires plenty of patience, she said. It’s a big change from the interior-design firm she previously owned. But she was ready for a new challenge, and was drawn by Sweet Things’ strong ties to the community and its “happy atmosphere,” Schuchman said, adding, “I’m a lighthearted person.”
She bought the business from its founder, Penni Brodey, who was preparing for retirement. The two got along so well that Brodey stayed on beyond the original transition period—and has never left. She continues to work at the store part time and has no plans to depart.
Having the previous owner, as well as seven previous employees, on hand helped ease Schuchman into the business.
“We have a remarkable relationship,” she said.
Annual revenue has ticked up a bit, to $1.3 million, since IBJ’s original profile of Sweet Things in 1998. The gift basket portion of the business has grown to make up more than half of sales.
The trick to running a candy store without running into a weight problem: Stay busy.
“You never sit down,” Schuchman said.
There is much more to the business than learning to make candy, she said. There are hundreds of vendors to keep track of, as well as making sales calls on corporate clients, who account for a third of her business. Her goals for Sweet Things include beefing up Internet sales and eventually adding another store to supplement the two locations on the north side.
The 38-year-old mother of two young sons, Schuchman thinks it’s valuable that they see women can be savvy businesspeople. But owning a candy store isn’t as handy as people expect at holiday time, Schuchman said.
“My kids’ Easter candy comes from Target,” she said. “Candy from the Easter Bunny can’t come from here, because they would know where it came from!”•