City Girl Confessions: So Much More Than A Candy Store

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City Girl Confessions is my recurring column via The Glencoe Anchor.

A few years ago I covered the grand opening of The Sweet Buddha in Glencoe. I shot photos, interviewed owner Sarah Miller, and had a sugar-filled day at her cheery candy store. 

But here’s the thing: I just walked into The Sweet Buddha this past week and found myself taken aback. Everything was different. Is the candy still there? Yes, delicious candy is still present and accounted for. But the vibe of the shop has evolved. I suspect its growth can be traced to the evolution most local businesses adapt to- tailoring your shop and its products to consumer demand and laboriously tweaking that formula to stay fresh and current.

Fresh and current are two words that came to mind when I walked into The Sweet Buddha. There is a lovely display of jewelry that runs the gamut of easy, everyday bracelet stacks to delicate rings and earrings with a bit of sparkle. I noticed several handbags, scarves, and zip pouches along with go-to gift items like glassware and candles. I grinned when I saw a whimsical station of the store in which shoppers could make customized dorm room signs using letters from old license plates. 

My youngest child, who happened to be tagging along, busiest herself by making friends with stuffed animal unicorns. A quick glance let me see that the store was a treasure trove for young ones and their bright imaginations- colorful backpacks, rainbow reading pillows, notebooks, glittery signs, etc..

When I gestured to the brightly lit event space, Sarah passed along information on birthday parties, personalized candy baskets, and event hosting (not just for children either- think jewelry making or painting).

The genius herein is that the store owner is a parent and knows how to balance the shopping harmony among the age groups. Sarah wisely set up a couch, coffee table, and TV so kids are welcome to hang out, relax, and enjoy a sweet treat while parents shop for a few blissfully uninterrupted minutes. Yes, you read that correctly: this store has a spot specifically for your kids so you can shop in peace. 

I’ll confess: I thought I had this local shop figured out. I had written about it long ago, I had known its story. The problem was that I didn’t check back in- something that often happens when we consumers get busy with and opt for convenience over shopping local. What I learned is that The Sweet Buddha still satisfies a sugar fix but it shines as a fresh specialty store. 

As my visit came to an end, I made a promise to myself that I would not fall into this kind of trap again- the trap that removes curiosity from our daily lives. Small business owners work exhaustive hours to ensure a positive consumer experience in our community. Let’s stay curious about how these stores are doing. Let’s walk in and look around when we have an extra five minutes. Let’s share the secret of what makes a local business so great. In doing so, you might learn, as I certainly did, that this is so much more than a candy store. 

Photo credit: Sarah Miller

City Girl Confessions: A Local Shop In Full Bloom

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City Girl Confessions is my recurring column published via The Glencoe Anchor.

It’s challenging to shop local. There, I said it. We live in an era of quick convenience. We can order things straight from an App or smartphone. With just a few quick taps, I can track a pizza delivery, queue up a latte order, tour local real estate, read reviews for a wool sweater, and place a library book on hold. 

Would you believe that two-day shipping is now considered slow? There are literal options for same-day delivery, often meaning that what one wants right now can be delivered to almost instantly. 

For obvious reasons, the era of quick convenience is very enjoyable. But there is one teeny part of this that is irksome- the effect that this has on small, local businesses. 

I’m haunted by a story of a legendary Glencoe book store that closed its doors in 2016. It was a glorious shop that not only offered books but it had a secret theater in the back. I was lucky enough to see a few shows there and I’ll never forget how wondrous the concept was or how intimate the performances felt.

When the store closed, one of the reasons cited was competition from online book retailers- that patrons would walk in, compare online pricing, and grow frustrated when the vendor couldn’t match the price of a book. 

Here’s what I know for sure: local businesses are pillars of the community. They give us picturesque storefronts to frame our streets. They painstakingly gift-wrap our purchases. They go out of their way to order what is needed and deliver it to you in a satisfactory manner. They ask to know our names and chat with us about our children, families, or pets. Most of all, they want to see Glencoe prosper.

During that recent holiday that celebrates all things love, I took a unique approach. I grabbed a flower vase from my cabinet and asked my husband to specifically visit The Flower Shop on Vernon Avenue. I figured if he was going to give me flowers for the holiday, it would mean much more to me if the item had ties to the community. So that’s just what he did. 

For days, I stared at the masterpiece of florals that were assembled by The Flower Shop: roses, hydrangeas, tulips in soft shades of creamy pink and lavender. I thought about how easy it would have been for my husband to go a different direction: tap his phone and place an order. I thought about the extra effort involved- the suggestion made, the vase grabbed, the act of walking into the store, etc.. 

I’ll confess: the extra effort is worth it. Supporting local businesses sometimes means paying a little bit more, showing up in person, or getting off of our Apps and smartphones. But that effort is always, always appreciated. Storeowners see it, residents see it, and our community reflects it. Quick convenience is pretty great, but shopping small allows everyone local to bloom.