Candy shops in St. Augustine
By Lawrence Griffin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sweets are universal. They are the feel-good food. Few people can truly say no to them. Sometimes a little comfort food is necessary in these times of fearful surveillance, incomprehensible warfare in other countries and political uncertainty.
With all of this going on, people still go about their lives on the smaller scale. They still go out to eat, they still watch movies and they still indulge in the pleasure of buying and consuming sweets. Chocolate covered bananas, creamy fudges and multi-flavored jellybeans are only the tip of the iceberg. Are you hungry yet?
As I found out when I first walked down Saint George St., it is rife with candy shops, as any respectable tourist outfit should be. Why bother even making one otherwise? If you’re going to rip people off and sell packs of playing cards for three dollars and T-shirts for sixteen, you should at least offer them some consolation for their miseries in the form of a nice, hot slab of chocolate fudge. It is just good manners.
If you walk outside the back of Flagler College’s cafeteria and breezeway, through the parking lot and past GG’s Diner, you come to an alleyway that stretches on a while before it breaks into St. George’s Street. If you turn your head to the right, you will come face to face with a sign that reads Kilwin’s Chocolates. If you walk a little further, perhaps enticed by the scents of sweets that lay beyond, you will reach Kilwin’s.
Kilwin’s candy store is a wonderful place, colored with bright, warm contours and smelling saccharinely of rich chocolates. The shelves were stocked with enticing contours. There were two or three pretty, smiling young women wearing the brand name on their apron and hat standing behind the counter. The counter started as I walked in the door, stretching horizontally beside the aisles. This way, in one can get assistance no matter how far into the store he or she may wander.
I stepped in and greeted the manager. His name was Chris Ford. Chris was a stocky, well-built man with rough, tanned skin, evidence of working hard. He wore a confident smile along with his Kilwin’s uniform. He spoke to me while he worked, giving quick answers that were probably not as elaborate as they could have been. They were good enough.
We talked about the recession. “We’ve been doing better in the recession,” he said. “Sales have gone up 5%. Candy is a comfort food, and people need to feel better. And it’s cheap here, as opposed to going to Disney and spending hundreds of dollars.” He said the business of selling candy was “as competitive as the Pizza business.” The important thing to him about the candy business is “giving [the customers] what they want, appealing to the five senses.”
I had bought candy from Kilwin’s before. To be specific, I bought a ten-dollar box of Jelly Belly Jellybeans. It was well worth the price of admission, and my taste buds were graced with every flavor from buttered popcorn to root beer. Are you hungry yet?
Chris Ford told me that he had been attracted to the Kilwin’s franchise because it worked for the street. It presented a business opportunity that was too good to pass up. If he was given a million dollars to do something for his business, Chris Ford said, “I would buy my own building, so I don’t have to rent anymore.”
All the while, the girls behind the counter were making and selling chocolate. Kilwin’s was a virtual bastion of movement. Fresh chocolate lay behind panes of glass, hot and tasty. Are you hungry yet?
A typical day at Kilwin’s involves “supervision, making sure the day’s orders are in, scheduling and bookkeeping.” Chris Ford said his favorite chocolate was caramel, because “it has everything I like in chocolate.”
Today a calm, vocal driven hymn fills the air on St. George. I can hear it even as I sit here in Tedi’s Ice Cream shop, collecting my thoughts and making these few cursory scribbles. Whetstone chocolates were very receptive, a kind and leisurely place filled with shelves upon shelves of chocolates and chocolate-related sweets. This place breathed and lived chocolate. Everything about their whole entire being is chocolate-scented, chocolate-flavored, chocolate-colored. Warm, soft lights illuminate the store – separated down the middle by a shelf filled with chocolates. A young woman greeted me, maybe in her early twenties – a junior at Flagler. She had wavy brown hair pulled back underneath a Whetstone cap, and big, expressive eyes that show a certain eagerness to talk to me, or anyone, about her work. I sensed a kind of subdued, business-like self-consciousness of being an underdog in what she said. A certain flame of pride channeled through her from the heart of this homegrown establishment, and it smelled so strongly of so many different kinds of chocolate.
Her name was Katelyn Manis. She was the store manager, even though she could not have been more than a few years older than me.
“I love chocolate,” she said. “I love Whetstone specifically. They’re a local company dedicated to excellent chocolate. We’re family owned, and we put a lot of heart and soul into making our chocolates. People love our chocolates.” It seemed as if she were not just speaking to me, but to the whole world. She was advertising through me. Drawing in customers like moths to a flame.
She told me that they had not faced any real difficulties due to the recession alone. “We’re focused on doing excellent customer service,” she said.
One of Whetstone’s chief exports is the chocolate covered banana. It was on a wintry day that I went to buy one, for purely scientific purposes. The skies were grey and the wind was cold. I walked in and observed the store once more. I went back and forth for a bit, unsure whether or not to buy a chocolate banana or a piece of fudge. I eventually settled for the banana – it was cold and fresh, covered in a brittle time bomb of melting chocolate. The day I chose to eat this delicacy was perhaps not the best one, but the food was still of good quality. Are you hungry yet?
Katelyn Manis’ favorite kind of chocolate is the chocolate pretzel, “because it’s the perfect combination of sweet and salty.”
With a lot of shops going out of business, it is refreshing to see a homegrown establishment doing so well. Katelyn Manis is confident in her work and seems to be doing a good job at it. She says of the American dream: “Pursuing passions, setting goals, sticking to important moral values. Nothing is more important than family and friends. It’s about happiness.”