Debbie Grigg hurried to her store, Sweet Creations Unlimited, on March 16, after city leaders ordered all nonessential businesses to close due to the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.
The candy and cake supply store on Torresdale Avenue in Wissinoming wasn’t scheduled to be open, but Grigg pinned a sign up letting customers know they could run in and get what they needed before the lockdown.
“Some people saw it, and they rushed in to get some stuff,” Grigg said.
She runs the store with her mother-in-law Betty Grigg, who opened it 26 years ago after purchasing a cake decorating business that operated at the same location. According to Betty, it’s the only such sweets supply shop within city limits.
Sweet Creations Unlimited stocks candy coatings, cake boards and boxes, icing colors, three different kinds of sugar in just about every color, edible glitters and dust, sprinkles in every color, cookie cutters, food coloring, edible paints and oils and more.
Oh, and about 3,000 distinct candy molds.
“We try to have a very large selection,” Debbie said. “We carry some of the things people might not be able to get at a regular store.”
Several months prior to the start of the pandemic, the Griggs, the only people who work at the shop, set up a website with online ordering. That came in handy, especially before the store reopened in early June.
“That actually was able to help us at least get by to pay the bills,” Debbie said. “We still took a really big hit.”
They also turned to social media to get the word out about their products and received a Paycheck Protection Program loan to stay afloat.
But traffic is starting to pick up. The Griggs only allow two people or family groups in at one time, and, some days, there’s a line of people outside waiting.
“I think people want to celebrate every little thing that they can,” Debbie said.
At this point, the biggest challenge is replenishing the shelves. Chocolate suppliers and other distributors are behind on orders, they said.
Sweet Creations Unlimited has a dedicated group of followers, some of whom come from as far as an hour away to shop.
“We have very loyal customers who have been great,” Debbie said.
“They still call it Charlotte’s,” referring to the name of the old cake decorating school, Charlotte Collins, Betty said. “They’ll call on the phone and go, ‘Is this Charlotte’s?’ and I’ll go, ‘Not for 26 years now.’”
The Griggs are happy to advise customers and give out recipes, including some from Collins, a noted area cake maker.
Generally, Betty is the candy guru and Debbie is the go-to for cakes and cookies.
Crafting your own candy isn’t that difficult, Betty said. It’s all about picking out the molding and chocolate, melting the chocolate, putting a stick in it and freezing it. Special paint can also be applied to the mold to give the candy some color.
“You can kind of be as simple or as elaborate as you want,” Betty said.
The modest store is bright and colorful, and packed to the gills with stuff.
“We love to have people come in and ask questions, and we try to help them figure out what they’re looking for,” Debbie said. “If we don’t carry it, we try to investigate it and try to get it in.”