A taste of the sweet life comes to the Post Road
Published 1:03 am, Thursday, June 10, 2010
Life in Darien is about to get a little sweeter.
Clifton Benham is planning to open his new candy store, Chunky Pam's Sweet Shoppe, later this month. The store is named after Benham's 7-month-old bulldog puppy, Pam. There's a portrait of a bulldog hung above the front door of the shop, which is located at 1096 Post Road. But the bulldog featured on the sign is actually Pam's mother, Calcutta; Pam's not quite old or big enough to be a chunky model yet, Benham said.
Naming the store after Pam (who Benham said can be classified as "chunky") is just one example of the light-hearted atmosphere that will permeate the environment, he said. He and his wife came up with the name around Christmas-time, about a month after he made the decision to leave his job in finance to begin the business.
"I've been talking about doing this for years, but I never took the risk," he said. But he quit his job in February and has worked full time since then to launch the business, which is gradually coming together piece by piece; he plans on hosting a "soft opening" late next week.
"I took the leap of faith," the 36-year-old father of two said.
"It's going to be me, myself and I running the store, and I have no retail experience," he said.
But he's more excited than nervous, he said.
"I work very well under pressure, and I'm looking forward to a great summer," he said.
His brother and father both own retail stores, and he's also getting advice from some of his other friends. Mainly, he's relying on his love of candy and creative mind to bring success to the store.
"Sometimes you walk into candy stores and you can't breathe because there's so much stuff," he said. He promises his store will be less head-ache and more sugar rush.
"My space will be modern and sleek," he said.
He plans on keeping a large flat-screen television on in the store, which will play MTV and other kid-and-teen friendly programs throughout the day and evening.
"I grew up in Long Island, and my parents would drop me off in town, and we would just walk around, go to the candy store and goof around. That's something that Darien needs," he said. His store will add another attraction for kids who are heading to the movie theater or Gofer Ice Cream.
"I'm most excited for the kids of Darien. I want this to be a haven, a place for them to come and be safe," he said. "There's nothing better than being able to drop your kids off, and feel safe about coming to pick them up at 9 o'clock."
One major attraction for kids will be the 7-and-a-half foot tall gumball machine, which holds 20,000 gumballs and rows of bulk candy, he also plans to stock nostalgic candy.
"I have two kids who are obsessed with gumballs," he said. "I have to go to Blockbuster on a gumball run every week."
But he'll have nostalgic candy for parents and other demographics as well, he said. Mary Janes, Red Hots and Fun Dip are just some of the classic candies he plans on filling his shelves with. While "penny candy" doesn't exist in the literal sense any more, he plans on stocking saltwater taffy and other penny-candy-like options for his customers. And of course, he'll have a large variety of his favorite kind of candies: gummies.
"Gummy airplanes, gummy butterflies, foot-long gummy snakes. Lots of gummies," he said.
He's spent the last several months scouring the Northeast for the best candies, and has found such gems as Lake Champlain Chocolates, and a machine that will enable children to create their own Pixy-Stix-like concoctions. But beyond the variation in flavors, his store will also have a selection of sugar-free and gluten-free candy to cater to dietary restrictions.
Though he will also have low-calorie or fat-free at his shop, he warns his customers "if you're coming into my store to calorie count, it's the wrong store to come into."