Candy shop hopes holiday season makes business sweeter for Savannah stores

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Candy sales went up nearly 30 percent nationwide in 2021, according to the National Retail Federation. One Savannah store hopes the holidays will help local businesses bounce back.

Nearly five decades ago, the Strickland family opened the doors to River Street Sweets.

“Tim found a fudge pot when he was like 11 years old and convinced his family to buy it,” Kelley Cale, the marketing vice president for the iconic candy store, explained.

“They brought it back and started making candy,” she said. “Pretty quickly, the candy overtook all of the gifts in the shop and so the gifts were moved out and candy became the big seller here in Savannah.”

Tim Strickland making pralines at the River Street flagship store

The family-run business took off with a lot of time spent crafting their now famous recipes. While the store sells a lot of familiar favorites, staff said it’s in the kitchen where the real magic happens.

“One of my favorite things is watching kids and their families come in,” Cale said. “The kids’ eyes are as big as saucers, and we want them leaving with big grins.”

Crafting candy starts bright and early every morning at their flagship store on River Street, with experts making the sweet treats by hand.

“Our pralines are, first and foremost, our most popular candy,” said Kenneth Fleming, the Savannah store’s general manager. “That’s what you smell right when you come through the door.”

“We got homemade fudge, taffy, caramel, and ice cream. Basically, we do a little bit of everything,” Fleming detailed.

The pandemic forced a lot of family-run stores to permanently close. While River Street Sweets kept the kitchen going, Cale said closing was always on their mind.

“It was really scary. I think everybody was concerned,” she explained. “We were worried when no one could travel, and that’s a big part of our business is seeing all of the visitors that come to Savannah, here and in our other locations in the south.

“We kept going because we have a busy mail order department.”

A lot of local stores hope the holidays will bring a boost in business, but they worry about whether they’ll have the staff to keep up with the upcoming sales.

“Christmas season is when we get really busy, and I’m gearing up for it right now,” Fleming said.

Cale explained they plan to bring in 100 employees to their manufacturing facility while ramping up staff at their six different locations. Visit here to apply for one of their seasonal positions.

Year-round, Cale and others said it is the family focus that fuels the work behind their signature sweets.

“This’ll be my 28th Christmas season, and I’m so passionate about it, because we’re just a family, and it means so much to me that I can share that with others.”

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