Terri Denboer has taken to her new job like a kid in a candy store. That’s because on Nov. 10, 2020, Terri opened Gramma’s Candy Store in Petrolia. “Yes, I have had lots of people telling me that I must feel like a kid in a candy store,” Terri says. “The other one I get all the time is, ‘My mother wouldn’t let me buy these when I was a kid, so I’m going to buy them now.’ ”

Terri had a vision for what she wanted in her working life and owning a candy store is just perfect for her. “I have always, always, always dreamed of owning this store. My mom owned a variety store for more than 40 years and I always wanted to have my own store, but I didn’t want it to be a variety store." Having lost her love of corporations, Terri decided to go out on her own. "The retro-style, diner-looking candy store is what I always wanted.” Gramma’s Candy Store’s slogan is “Take A Step Back In Time”, and the feel that Terri created does just that. 

It doesn’t take much to get Terri to speak enthusiastically about Gramma’s Candy Store, but if you really want to see her bubble over, just mention the sign that hangs above the door at her 4110 Petrolia Line location. The bold and colourful sign features a dreamland of snacks such as popcorn, candies, milkshakes and ice cream sundaes and is a real show stopper. “It was done by Sure Signs in Sarnia,” Terri says. “I told them I wanted bright colours and a variety of candy on it. They did an amazing job.” 

Opening a new business in the midst of a global pandemic is hardly ideal circumstances. “Obviously COVID has been a big challenge for everybody, but I was aware of what I would be facing, and I was prepared for the challenges,” Terri says. Outside of the pandemic, Terri has had to evolve her stock to meet the needs of her growing customer base. “The biggest challenge for me has been keeping up with the changes that I constantly have to make based on customer wants and needs. For example, I didn’t know anything about nut-free or that there was something different called tree nut-free. I buy products that are gluten free and dairy free and vegan-free. It’s keeping up with what the people expect the store to be.”

Gramma’s Candy Store features lots of treats and some of the most popular are retro products such as Cracker Jacks, Pink Elephant Popcorn and Butter Rum Lifesavers. Terri says she is a people person and being her own boss allows her to create the type of atmosphere in her store that customers appreciate. “It is so much better being the boss,” Terri says. “I love being able to make decisions based on what I have learned. My mom taught me a lot over the years and customers taught us way more.”