Apr 20, 2005 8:00 a.m.
By George Nelson
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- The sweet taste of nostalgia is for sale at a new downtown candy store operated by a nonprofit corporation that employs disabled adults.
The Touch The Moon Candy Saloon opened a week ago on Phelps Street next to City Hall. It is operated by Iron and String Life Enhancement Inc., which provides residential and respite services for mentally retarded and developmentally disabled children and adults.
“We decided we wanted to go with something fun and what's more fun than candy?” asks James F. Sutman Jr., ISLE owner and director.
Sutman said he wanted to start a business that primarily employs people with disabilities but would receive no government funding. The business would financially stand on its own, he continued, but at the same time “keep things lighthearted.”
ISLE also operates the Purple Cat downtown, a day program on Commerce Street where adults with disabilities produce unique crafts and art items.
The Candy Saloon stocks the kinds of confections typically found in any grocery store, but it specializes in offering selections familiar to baby boomers from their youth -- “what they call retro candies … that were really popular back in the '50s or '60s,” Sutman said.
The candy counter's nostalgic features include Beemans, Clove and Black Jack chewing gums, Swedish fish, candy necklaces, marshmallow candy cones, licorice pipes and Wack-O-Wax lips -- even BB Bats.
The Candy Saloon also sells Starbucks coffee as well as its own store blend, Velvet ice cream products, candy gift sets and sodas.
“We want to fill a niche,“ Sutman remarked. “It's going to take us several months to figure out what exactly the businessmen and women of Youngstown are looking for.”
The store fills special orders on request, he said, and places special emphasis on working with regional candy suppliers.
The Candy Saloon has 12 employees, including eight of whom who have some form of disability. Sutman said he always tries to have one non-disabled person working with a disabled person or, depending on the disability, sometimes two.
Sutman is encouraged by response from both employees and the community. “It has been a 100% success as far as my disabled clients are concerned, my disabled employees,” he said.
The store enjoys good foot traffic from workers at downtown employers such as InfoCision, the Mahoning County Department of Children Services and the Youngstown Police Department.
“The mayor's been in there five or six times,“ Sutman added.