It's more than a candy shop; it deals in nostalgia, offering the old-fashioned balsa wood airplanes, paddle balls, pinwheels and jacks. I used to be a jacks champ and was upset when my folks got wall-to-wall carpeting that covered my favorite spot to play, between the living room and dining room. See how nostalgia works?
At the Candy Shop leapt into existence Feb. 29 and lots of people have discovered it, owner Ken Etherington told me last Friday. At that point, around 3:30 p.m., the store was packed with young people oohing and aahing over the goodies and lined up to make purchases.
"They come in waves," Ken said. "In between waves, we straighten up and restock the shelves."
A lot of the merchandise is novelty candy, such as marshmallow guns, bubblegum yardsticks and jawbreakers so huge that you'd have to break a jaw to insert one.
"My kids tested most of the stuff," Ken said. "I don't want people to buy stuff that will fall apart."
His son Timmy, 7, is in the first grade at Rancho Romero, and his daughter Rachel, 9, is in fourth. They are often there to help out after school.
"The biggest seller is bulk candy," Ken said. "People gravitate toward that."
The bins have plastic forks for sampling before buying. That way people will know exactly what they're getting, he said. The front wall has baskets of taffy and next to that are the gummy candies.
"Anything 'sour' moves," Ken said, noting that they refill the sour worms bin several times a day.
Packaged candies include everything from Sugar Babies to Red Hots to U-No bars.
The shop carries the old metal lunchboxes but without the thermoses - "Remember how those always leaked?" Ken asked. My favorite was the Junior Mints box and I may buy it yet. I mean, why can't I bring my lunch to work in that instead of a bag?
"We carry sodas you don't normally see," said Ken, pointing out Frostie Root Beer, cream sodas and Leninade, with a hammer and sickle on the label. The smaller bottles sell for about $1.50 per bottle, he said, because he doesn't want people to get sticker shock when they check out.
He also has a rack of jokes. Some are a tad racy, he admits, explaining, "I didn't want to be too uptight." Almost every item is under $20, for a quick pick en route to a party. There is an interesting selection of Band-Aids - pirate strips, crime scene, boo-boo kisses, and bacon strips. And there are chocolate Band-Aids, which of course have another purpose altogether.
Ken, who's lived in Alamo for 16 years, says he got the idea for his store when he was walking around downtown after dinner one night, and he started to tell his children about visiting a candy shop when he was growing up in San Mateo. To get ideas, he and his partner, Kerynn Gianotti, traveled the country looking at candy shops, including New York, Atlantic City and Chicago.
"When the space on the corner of Hartz Avenue and Diablo Road became available, I knew that I had to move forward and open the store," Ken said.
"We want to be part of the community," he added. "Our craftsmen were all local, doing the sheetrock and the walls."
They designed the shop so people would feel at home.
"I used bookcases for the shelves, cabinetry that would normally go in a home," he pointed out.
Pinatas and other decorations hang from the high ceiling. Pez dispensers are lined up on top of one cabinet. Jelly Bellies are omnipresent, from the decor to the 48 flavors in bins.
"We're dealing directly with Jelly Belly headquarters," Ken said.
Chocolates in a display case near the cash register are from Asher's Chocolates in L.A., and there is almond brittle made from almonds on Ken's almond farm in Ripon.
"The store is a place where kids feel like they are in heaven and adults feel like they are kids," Ken said.
Works for me. I just might go back and buy those jacks - and the lunch box. (And a few mint chocolate malt balls.)
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.