Candy Land

Sweet Deals

A sweet tooth is what lured Moustafa Badawi into the bulk candy business. "I love candy myself, and as a father, we could never pass by a candy store without my children stopping in," he says. "When I looked at how much we were spending, I thought, `This is a great business.' "

That's when Badawi, 42, started researching distributors and manufacturers and scouting out locations for a retail shop. He landed a plum spot on a trendy Long Beach, California, shopping street that has heavy foot traffic.

Although his store is still too new to predict annual sales figures, Badawi says that since he opened Candy Land's doors last November, hordes of customers have been plunking down an average of $1.50 to $3 per sale for bags of the more than 175 different kinds of candy the store carries.

In the land of candy stores, 175 kinds of candy is on the low side: Many retailers stock more than 700 varieties of sweets. Dave Ervin, owner of two Candy Express locations--one in Columbia, South Carolina, and the other in the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina--claims there are 10,000 different kinds of candy on the market.

Sounds like a lot of product to manage, but retailers freely admit that operating a candy store isn't brain surgery. Badawi, who also owns an art store, says, "Paintings and art . . . you really have to sell that, but candy? Candy sells itself."

The ease of operation is what led Joel Rosenberg to franchise the Candy Express concept in the first place. The former owner of a clothing store chain was considering opening a new location next to a bulk candy store and thought to himself, "This looks a lot easier than what we're doing." After testing the concept in a local shopping center--with rave reviews--in 1990, Rosenberg created the Columbia, Maryland-based Candy Express Inc. franchise operation that boasts 40 U.S. locations and licensing agreements in 20 countries.

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This article was originally published in the May 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Candy Land.

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