BY NASH NUNNERY
It may sound clichéd, but one visit to Livingston Sweet Shoppe transforms even the most refined adult into the proverbial “kid in a candy store.” One might say the place is more a nostalgia-flavored oasis of fun than a store that sells sweet treats.
With 25 varieties of Gummi Bears, an array of taffies, Gourmet Turtles chocolate, eight flavors of ice cream, homemade popcorn, old-fashioned homespun milkshakes and more types of hard candies than Bayer has aspirins, Livingston Sweet Shoppe appeals to the young and the young at heart.
The shop also boasts an alluring assortment of retro candies and sodas, and sports a 1940s vintage bicycle hanging from the ceiling adorned with a strings of twinkling Christmas lights.
The vibe at Livingston Sweet Shoppe is happy, happy, happy.
Folks tend to have strong feelings about their favorite childhood candy. Inside Livingston Sweet Shoppe, visitors often will see something that triggers memories associated with the first time they had a lollipop, chocolate bar or candy cane.
Located in the Town of Livingston in rural Madison County, the store is more country and less upscale than many modern candy emporiums. Livingston (“Where the Old South meets stainless steel”) once served as Madison County’s first county seat. The 44-acre community is now home to a variety of small businesses, including two restaurants and a beer garden.
Open since 2012, Livingston’s farmers market has become a staple for summertime entertainment and has hosted several notable musical artists, including the Tedeschi Trucks Band and Travis Tritt.
Co-owner Cindy Hannon, who purchased Livingston Sweet Shoppe with Trish Williams in August 2016, figures the remote location is part of the appeal.
“Everybody is happy in a candy store and there is something magical about being out here in the middle of nowhere,” said Hannon. “It’s just by chance that Trish and I found out it was going to be put up for sale.
“It was love at first sight.”
The selection of vintage candies at Livingston is impressive. We’re talking Goo-Goo Clusters, Sugar Babies, Slo Poke, Black Cow, Jelly Bellies, Candy Buttons, candy cigarettes and necklaces, rock candy and a host of other throwback confections that often get shoved aside in a Mars-and-Hershey world.
Retro soda brands also are in demand at the store.
IBC Root Beer, Dang! Italian Cream Soda, Cheerwine, Dog Drool and the old-school Dr. Pepper bottle with the 10…2…4 logo are among the most popular soft drinks for customers looking to check their thirst and savor a memory of the past.
Besides Hannon and Williams, the store employs two full-time staffers and a couple of high school students. Finding help is not a problem, according to Hannon, who also works as a certified personal trainer and owns three KFC franchises.
“People want to work here and work in a happy place,” Hannon said, adding that she keeps a list of prospective staff that are waiting for a position to come open.”
Madison resident Bettie Lou Pigg, who began helping out in the shop a few months ago, says nostalgia oozes out of most customers who walk in the door.
“The kids are very excited but to see the joy on the faces of the older customers is priceless,” Pigg said. “They see a candy or treat from their childhood and then the stories start coming out. Just the other day, I had a man come in to buy rock candy. He said it reminded him of the old Hollywood Sweet Shop next to the Lamar Theatre in downtown Jackson.
“This store brings back a lot of happy memories for a lot of people.”