Three years ago, all Heidi and Michael Pedrelli knew about candy was the fact they liked eating it, but that didn’t stop the couple from starting their own candy store.
The pair opened Heidi’s Sweet Shop in Gig Harbor after moving to the area from California.
“We were out for an anniversary dinner and Heidi said, ‘I’d love a piece of chocolate.’ And we walked around and there were no chocolate shops in Harbor,” Michael Pedrelli recalled.
That was in November 2010. Four months later, they opened the doors of their shop on Harborview Drive.
Initially, the Pedrellis sold only prepackaged candy, but now they’re making about 15 to 20 percent of their stock. As they learn more about candymaking, that percentage should increase.
“We’ll still carry all the packaged stuff, but as far as piece chocolates, we’ll start making more of those ourselves,” Pedrelli said, noting he also makes fudge, brittle, English toffee and honeycomb. “It’s constantly expanding.”
Their business is growing in other ways, too.
Pedrelli left his job about six months ago to work at the shop full time. With more time to devote to the store, they’ve been offering delivery services and special orders for businesses.
“That part is just taking off,” Pedrelli said. “We planned on doing that when we first opened. That part we couldn’t really do until I was up here full time.”
Looking ahead, Pedrelli said he foresees this also becoming a bigger and more lucrative part of their business, especially in their off season, which, unlike some other local candy companies, is the summer.
About 50 to 55 percent of Heidi’s Sweet Shop’s sales are made in the summer, and this summer was up almost 20 percent from last summer.
The holidays, excluding Halloween — which the shop doesn’t cater to — are about 30 to 35 percent of the Pedrellis' business.
The Pedrellis aren’t the only candymakers who are expanding their business, though.
Ronnie Roberts, owner of Gosanko Chocolate Art based in Auburn, and Kathy Trotter and Ruth Egger, owners of PJ’s Sweet Factory in DuPont, have explored new avenues for selling their products to keep their businesses afloat during the recession. Roberts expanded his business into the retail sector, while Trotter and Egger started selling their toffee wholesale to make up for lost income during the downturn.
“No pun intended, it’s a sweet business,” Roberts said. “A lot of it has to do with determination and believing that you can do anything. I’m the kind of guy who’s told he can’t do it. I work 7 days a week, 360 days a year. That’s what it takes nowadays, especially with the economy.”
You can read my full story about how Gosanko’s and PJ’s adapted their business models to survive the recession in the latest edition of the Business Examiner’s bi-weekly publication.