Photo: The Candy Store
Diane Campbell wore many hats before donning the metaphorical purple stovepipe to become the Willy Wonka of San Francisco's Russian Hill neighborhood: She was a cook, a fundraiser, and a marketer for a dot-com, among other things. Her passion, however, has always been candy. As a little girl growing up on Long Island, she used to buy big sacks of the sweet stuff from the supermarket, carry her haul home on her bike, and repackage the candy into goodie bags for her family and friends. She turned this lifelong love of candy into a career five years ago when she and her husband opened what has since become the city's premier sweet shop, known simply as The Candy Store.
Read more about Diane and The Candy Store after the jump...
Bringing it to the neighborhood:
"There was a mom-and-pop candy store in this neighborhood many years ago. The people who have been here for a long time always tell me stories about it. They're happy we're here, and we love this location. When we were shaping our business concept -- which took three years, by the way -- we were adamant about being in a real neighborhood, not a tourist destination. In the five years that we've been open, we've watched our customers grow and change, and we've grown and changed with them."
From nostalgia and gummy bears to Happy Goats:
"When we started, we focused primarily on what I call "nostalgia candy," things I remembered eating as a kid: gummy bears, licorice whips, seasonal candy, stuff like that. We still have those things -- but only the best versions; with such a small space, we have to be very selective. We also carry really great, hard to find artisan items. Some of my favorite things in the store right now are these really great goat's milk caramels from Happy Goat. They're made by this awesome local guy, and they're beyond delicious. We like to support local artisans, and the Bay Area is loaded with talent. Actually, my husband makes brittle-right now we have this Hawaiian blend with coconut that he whipped up -- you can't get more local than that. But we also bring in candy from all over the world; if it's good, we have it, no matter where we had to go to get it."
Candy meets the web:
"Right now, we're focusing on expanding our online business. We're on Facebook and Twitter and we have a blog, but we want to do more. We have big plans for the next five years. It's just hard to find the time to put these plans in action because we have such a small staff and we're always busy with the store or doing events or parties or whatever."
Next stop, Tokyo?
"Eventually, I want to open two more stores: one in New York because it's where I'm from and one in Tokyo. I'm obsessed with Tokyo. The shops there show so much respect for the products they're selling no matter what the product is. That's one thing I hope comes across in our store. Candy should be treated with the same respect that other artisan products, like fine wine and cheese, are. Just because it's candy doesn't mean you shouldn't take it seriously."