Navigating the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult for all business owners, but it has been an especially trying time for fledgling entrepreneurs. Fortunately for Robin Mack, owner of Sweet Dream Candy Shoppe in Baldwinsville, her business is buoyed by the tight-knit B’ville community.
Less than a year into her post-retirement venture — Mack spent 20 years as a nurse for St. Joseph’s Health — COVID-19 brought everyday life to a screeching halt. Weddings, showers and other special events for which Mack was supplying favors and candy buffets were put on hold.
“We were just starting to get going with that when we first opened in 2019, and I had booked a bunch of weddings in 2020. I had to regroup and figure out how to keep going,” Mack said.
Thanks to her devoted fan base — Sweet Dream has nearly 2,600 Facebook likes and over 1,100 followers on Instagram — and the support of her family and fellow business owners, Mack has been able to persevere.
“The support that we each show each other just trying to keep each other going is huge,” she said.
When most businesses were closed to foot traffic, Mack implemented curbside pickup and began taking orders over social media. She offers free delivery in the Baldwinsville area.
“People [have been] nervous about going out in public,” she said.
Sweet Dream has partnered with other Baldwinsville businesses for small, private events. In December, Sweet Dream and Bliss Bridal hosted the Red Wine Soirée, which featured wines from Strigo Vineyards and catering by Angry Garlic. The wine tasting had two sessions and capped attendance so no more than 10 people would be in the shop at a time. Sweet Dream also collaborated with Pizza Man Pub for Thursday date night packages and family dinners at Greens ’N’ Grains, which opened next door to the candy shop in 2020.
On Saturday, March 13, Sweet Dream will partner with sustainable women’s fashion boutique Gypsy Freedom for the Mad Hatter Tea Party Pop-Up Shop. This pop-up, in-store shopping event with a twist will feature guest personal stylists as well as refreshments from JessiCakes, Bee You Nutrition and AK Liquors. The Little Tea Cart and the Hamill House will raffle off giveaways as well. Tickets are $25 per person with a 10-person limit per shopping hour; visit bit.ly/madhatter13 or search Eventbrite.com. RSVP by March 10.
Lessons from nursing
As Central New York families adjusted to working, learning and playing from home, Sweet Dream developed new products to entertain chocolate lovers of all ages. Mack created scavenger hunt kits and chocolate charades for children and an escape room kit for adults.
While she’s no longer putting in shifts at the hospital, Mack is acutely aware of the pressures facing workers on the front lines of the COVID crisis.
“I have good friends that are still working in the hospitals, and they’re definitely struggling,” she said. “The thing that’s hard, too, is nurses were feeling burned out before the pandemic. I can’t even imagine the stressors that they’re feeling.”
To show her appreciation, Mack put together 50 candy gift baskets for first responders last spring. She is looking to repeat the gesture this year.
Mack has carried lessons from her nursing career into her new business.
“That fast pace of working in the emergency room prepared me for being busy here,” she said. “It’s given me perspective — obviously, nobody’s going to die if they don’t get candy — [but] there are candy emergencies.”
With the last-minute candy emergencies of Valentine’s Day behind her, Mack is looking ahead to Easter, which falls on April 4 this year. Mack has ordered 300 pounds of chocolate and is taking orders for customized Easter baskets to meet a range of budgets.
“Last year, I ran out of candy the week before,” she said. “People need to get their orders in early.”
If the traditional Easter basket doesn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, Mack is also crafting candy charcuterie boards featuring Peeps, jelly beans, gummy fruit and candies that look like fried eggs.
“Everything is so tailored to the individual person,” she said of her custom orders. “Everything that I send out the door, I want it to be personalized.”
Sweet Dream Candy Shoppe is located at 3 W. Genesee St. in the village of Baldwinsville (at the Four Corners). For more information, visit facebook.com/sweetdreamcandyshoppe/ or call 315-303-0834.
This story originally ran in Syracuse Woman Magazine.