Candy Store Shenanigans

I’m just drooling.”

I hate to break it to you, but if you’ve ever said that to an employee in a candy store and thought you were being original, well…you’re not. The phrase probably has an average of five times per shift, making it just one of the many regularities found in a candy store. Oh, and if you thought: “how do you stay so skinny working here?” and “can I sample one of everything?” were unique, guess again. I’ve heard them all a million times.

But I’ll stop there. This post is not meant to be a rant, but rather a reflection of fond memories and lessons learned as a seven-year veteran of Wythe Candy & Gourmet Shop. So here we go.

If you’re curious, it’s pronounced “with” after George Wythe, a Williamsburg resident in the 1700s who taught law to Thomas Jefferson.

Seven years ago, 16-year-old me, a newly licensed driver, decided it would be a good idea to get a part time job to pay for the cell phone I had just convinced my dad to let me buy. In a rather quick turn of events, I found myself employed at the local candy store and was soon driving to my first shift on an overcast Friday in March 2010. After about a ten-minute tutorial (here are the candy bags, here’s the scale, the wax papers, and oh, here’s how you work the register), I was soon helping my first customer. The poor woman was a little impatient with the amount of time it took me to get her a quarter pound of candy corn, but don’t worry, I soon became quite adept at guestimating the weight of all bulk candy.

Fast forward to mid-July, when my boss approached me: “We don’t have anyone to work fudge (the area where we actually make some of our candy) today. Do you think you can handle it?” With a very primitive fudge knowledge and some even vaguer directions, I asked the assistant manager a few questions and got right to work. It wasn’t exactly pretty (okay, my fancy apples were pretty darn ugly), and I was painfully slow, but hey, I improvised. Creative problem solving at its finest, right? In the months that followed, I carefully observed the other fudge workers, picking up tips and developing the skills to multitask: pleasantly helping customers, while (seemingly) effortlessly creating exquisitely designed product and holding riveting discussions with my fellow fudge worker(s).

I wish I had photographic evidence of my first caramel apples, but here are some of my favorite designs.

Okay, maybe they weren’t always “riveting,” but I would be remiss if I didn’t give a nod to all of the friendships formed and deepened in that store. Sure, it was drama central at times, but my coworkers became some of my best friends, offering new perspectives on music, traveling, relationships, religion, education, politics and sharks (“They don’t want to actually eat you; they just don’t have hands.”). Looking back on the many memorable nights of candy creations, time capsule constructions, “marriage proposals” (and subsequent break-ups), long talks in parking lots and after work hangouts at Paul’s, I wouldn’t trade any of it. (Even if some shifts were incredibly boring). Overtime, I learned that if I let them in, people leave a huge impact on my life, and I’m thankful to this motley crew for the laughs, the tears and the support.

The store is a little slow this time of year, so my sister and I made a rowboat for our sour patch kids.

Perhaps it’s a little cheesy to write a sappy blog post about my first job, but I had to try to capture the complexities of Wythe Candy & Gourmet Shop. Whether it’s the simple act of cleaning the chocolate pot, spinning a caramel apple, bagging a truffle, counting back change or counting down a drawer, no matter what I do or where I stand, I’m surrounded by a storm of memories, each one clamoring for acknowledgement. From falling up the stairs, to spilling jellybeans, knocking over chocolate trays, and dropping fudge, I’ve had my share of mishaps. But maybe that’s just one of the ways God is trying to teach me grace. Because when accidents defy the best of intentions, there’s nothing to do but admit the mistake, learn from it, and move on. There’s no use crying over spilled chocolate.

Now it’s finally time to leave this place that feels like home. A place where I’ve memorized the price and tax of too many items, a place where phrases such as “school groups” and “Grand Illumination” strike both dread and excitement in the hearts of every employee, a place where I finally understand the logical labyrinth that is the basement storeroom. It’s time to move on from the familiar routine of being the one who answers questions and on to a new adventure of being the one who asks them.

The days of free fudge samples may be coming to a close, but it’s probably for the best. My sisters and I spend way too much time discussing work-related things outside of the store. And I care way too much about the ratio of chocolate to cornflakes or the type of melting chocolate used to consider myself sane.

Of all the things I still remember
Summer’s never looked the same
The years go by and time just seems to fly
But the memories remain
” —“September” by Daughtry



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