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The Candy Bar: A bittersweet separation

By Cole Caviston, Staff Writer

The Candy Bar, known in Durham for its tasty, eye-catching candy and chocolate treats, has been put for sale by owner Karen Larson, who plans to move on after two and a half years of running the store.

Larson is proud of her store’s success and the satisfaction that that has come from managing it.

“I’ve been very successful here, and I’ve had a really good time,” Larson said. “I’m at an age where I don’t want to do something if it’s not fun.”

Originally from Vermont, Larson first moved to Durham in 2000 and lives in nearby Madbury. Before owning her own business, Larson was a saleswoman for an Italian linen company and then taught piano for 10 years before devoting her full attention to running The Candy Bar.

The idea for opening a candy store is one Larson attributes to her kids, but Larson also believed that Durham was missing an element of fun.

“I wanted [a business] to be fun and bright and colorful,” Larson said. “I just had a vision and went for it.”

The look and style of the store was an important element that Larson considered. Her greatest influence came from the appearance of the classical candy store rather than a modern approach. 

“I did a few things unconventionally, rather than buying the super-flashy, urban, expensive displays,” Larson said. “I did things a little more alternatively in a look I thought could work in Durham.”

“It’s a treat; for some people, it brings you right back to your childhood,” Larson said.

One who enjoys The Candy Bar for its nostalgic value is Franz Guest, the owner of Franz’s Food, who said the charm of the store makes him reminisce of the candy stores he frequented in his childhood and has made him a regular customer since day one.

“It’s a wonderful store. It’s what my store should have been,” Franz said, laughing.

The store receives a mix of University of Hampshire students and faculty, but Larson said that half the business she receives comes from local families in the community. In addition, many of the products come not only from across New England, but also from around the world.

Aside from this season’s holiday candy — from Christmas candy canes, to Hanukkah gelt — there are also locally-provided and international products, such as Belgium chocolate and organic chocolate from New Hampshire.

While passionate about her work with The Candy Bar, Larson said the decision to move came from a business opportunity that her husband had after developing a pre-cast luxury plunge pool they both feel has lucrative potential.

“This is a great business; it’s a lifestyle business, but the other has the potential to support a whole family,” Larson said.

For now, Larson continues to promote the sale through The Candy Bar’s Facebook page, but says that so far marketing has been mostly word of mouth through the store’s walk-in-traffic, but she hopes that students will express interest.

“The one thing I haven’t tapped into is either a recent graduate or two, or students who are about to graduate in May,” Larson said.

Larson has established good relationships with neighboring stores, recently cooperating with the next-door Makery to host AlleyFest, a community event on Sept. 27.

The Candy Bar shares a building with Hayden Sports, a situation the other store’s manager Petra Vopalenska finds is mutually beneficial.

“We give each other ideas,” Vopalenska said. “A lot of customers who go into The Candy Bar aren’t necessarily looking for things here so they pop in here and do a double-take when they realize they’re no longer in the candy store.”

Whatever the future may hold for The Candy Bar and for its owner, Larson looks forward to it and to maintaining a connection with the Durham community.

“There’s nothing that’s not fun about working here, I’ll tell you that,” Larson said.

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