The Candy Girl Can
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Have you ever wondered what happened to Mallomars cookies, Jiffy Pop Stovetop Popcorn and the always fun Lik-M-Aid Fun Dip? Look no further than the Internet-and Hometown Favorites Inc. The West Palm Beach, Florida-based company specializes in finding hard-to-find snacks for the consumer who says, "out with the new, in with the old."
Colleen Chapin, 44, founded Hometown Favorites in 1996 when she moved to sunny Florida and couldn't find her favorite candy from her home state of Wisconsin. "As I dug into trying to find certain products, it just seemed everyone was looking for something. I thought, 'Maybe there's something here,' " she says.
It was the perfect fit for Chapin, who had worked for a mail-order company for nine years, but wanted something she could do from home while raising her youngest child. With 100 products and "a couple cases of this and a couple cases of that," she started working right out of a room in her house, filling all the orders and establishing contacts with manufacturers and food editors. As word-of-mouth spread about her service, she created an online store (www.hometownfavorites.com) where Internet shoppers can scroll through lists filled with their favorite foods of yore.
"Nobody sells the variety of products that we do, and nobody else will look for a product for you," Chapin says of her competitive edge. "Our inventory really is generated by our customers."
Chapin's store currently carries more than 400 products, most of them with long, illustrious histories. "[These products] have been around for 40 or 50 years because they're great," she says. "The things we carry have a loyal following."
With a new, spacious warehouse away from home and annual sales of somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million, Chapin doesn't foresee an end to her lucrative pastime. "The potential is limitless," she says, "because [people's favorites] constantly disappear from the grocery shelf."