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New Victoria candy store offers sweet escape (video)

ALLISON MILES

By ALLISON MILES
Sept. 15, 2012 at 4:15 a.m.

Eyan Vasquez, 3, of Victoria, picks out candy at the new Sweetie's Candy Shop and More.

Just off East Rio Grande Street, in a brick building flanked by wooden rainbow lollipops, sits a bit of Candy Land in Victoria.

Sweetie's Candy Shop and More officially opened Aug. 21 at 1501 E. Red River St., Suite D, giving Crossroads residents a lifeline to all things sugar.

The endeavor began simple enough, owner Jamie Cortinas said. Although a nurse by trade, she said she was ready for something different. When her husband suggested she open a business all her own, candy seemed the way to go.

"I wanted to supply Victoria with something it didn't already have," she said. "This was something everyone could enjoy."

Still, the road to entrepreneurship wasn't easy.

Cortinas said she secured the building in June and got to work setting up Internet, electricity and other necessities. Olga Flores, Cortinas's mother and business partner, said it makes a difference when a company doesn't own the building it works out of.

"There are very specific things you can do, and things you can't," she said, noting they could not make holes in the walls but made the wiring work with existing ones. "It's hard."

In addition to financial backing, Cortinas said elbow grease was key to business ownership. Luckily, with family throughout the Crossroads, there was no shortage of helping hands.

"My uncles built all the shelves and I have a cousin who paints," she said, glancing at a lime green wall. "We even have a plumber. I'm lucky we're kind of a jack-of-all-trades family."

Flores, too, used her years of experience selling snow cones and lemonade in Port Lavaca and area events to add additional offerings at the shop.

With all hands on deck, freshly-stocked shelves and a register system that went online at 11 p.m. Aug. 17, the company was ready for its grand opening event the next day.

"It was close," Cortinas said. "But we did it.

That first day was one for the books, she said, as workers mixed and mingled with customers while still learning the touch-screen register.

Anna Flores and her family were among those at the opening day festivities and, because they live across the street, have since made it back.

On Sept. 5, she marched a small army - her three children, some cousins and their children, too - into the shop for snow cones on a warm South Texas day.

She grabbed up banana, while 9-year-old daughter Jaylene picked a pickle-flavored cone with an actual pickle on top. As for 3-year-old son Nate? That was easy.

"The baby gets whatever's clear," she said. "It's easier that way."

Cortinas couldn't name her favorite confection - funny enough, she doesn't eat many sweets - but she said the goal is to stock what her customers want. Old-fashioned candy seems popular with many people, she said, while rock candy is among the shop's main sellers.

Taffy, too, which comes in flavors such as candy corn, grape and pineapple, sells well.

As for the biggest customers? Flores said it was a toss up.

"I think it's kids first, and then men," she said with a smile. "We have men who come in here and get so excited when they're walking around, seeing what we have. You wouldn't think so, but they do."

Colleen Elliott ventured into the shop for the first time Sept. 5, her 16-year-old daughter, Amber Elliott, in tow. While the teen sought out bags of gummy candy, it was the shelves of school spirit items that caught the mom's eyes.

"I think it's great we've got another place for kids to buy candy, and even gifts for friends or athletes," she said. "Who doesn't like sweets?"

Down the road, Cortinas said she hopes to see her business thrive and grow.

The plan is to add a "chocolate bar" in late October, once the weather cools and the product won't melt. Eventually, she said, she hopes to own her own building.

For now, however, she's happy where she is.

Her current digs allow a place for business, and for her 3-year-old daughter Aybrie Corona - or "Sweetie," the shop's namesake - to spend quality time with mom. A new baby, who will join the family within the next few months, will also have a home away from home inside the shop.

"Things are good," Cortinas said. "We're happy."

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