Friday, February 14, 2014

A Short and Sweet Valentine's Story

More than a decade ago, a woman named Tanita lived on Harvard Street in the Houston Heights. A mere three blocks away, a nice young man named Keith was living the bachelor life on Columbia. The nearby-neighbors met, fell in love, got married, had a daughter, and that is how the rest of us got the Heights Candy Bar.

OK, maybe that is too short, although no less sweet.

Gorgeous gifts from Hammond's

Tanita Gumney met her husband while they were both single and living in the Heights. Soon after they got married and settled in to his house on Columbia, Keith's mother opened a small shop in the neighborhood. You may be familiar with it: Oa La La on Studewood. When I moved to the Heights Judy Pfardresher's beautiful gift shop was still young, yet was one of the very first Heights landmarks that I knew well, even before the shops on 19th Street or Onion Creek.

Since Oo La La opened in 2003, the space has seen some changes. Pfardresher has subdivided the building in to three shops. On the north side is Tulips and Tutus, helmed by another Judy, Judy Meyer (allowing me to refer to my visits to the shops as "Going to see The Judys."). In a rare location switch, Meyer actually left the 19th Street retail district to join OoLaLa. While that meant a reduction in foot traffic, it almost doubled the space for precious baby gifts, thoughtful toys, and adorable clothes. On the south side, we've had the first incarnation of Kaboom Books. When Kaboom relocated to Houston Ave, Frosted Betty cupcakes moved in.

A few months ago, Frosted Betty closed up shop. As Gumney and Phardresher sat around one evening talking about what new thing they would love to see in the vacant space, the concept of a candy shop was stuck in Phardresher's head. One thing lead to another and her daughter-in-law agreed to helm the shop. Heights Candy Bar was born.

"I really wanted all natural candy," said Gumney, but when she got to picking stock, couldn't get away from traditional candy because, well "[it] is so much fun!" In the end, she decided to go with all of the above. "Life is a balance, and there is room for both."

Gumney is optimistic about the community supporting another locally owned business, especially one that is unique in the neighborhood right now. "Everyone needs a little sweet something-something every now and then, right? I've tried to get a good mix of traditional candy, natural candy and gift-y items." She thinks the space feels good when you walk in, and hopes it will be a destination, "somewhere worth the stroll or drive over."

Giant heart shaped lollipops

Although she has barely been open a week, she/s already having fun with the concept. Opening right before Valentine's Day has helped make the first few days a lot of fun, despite the stress of opening a new business. 
The thing I like best, so far, is people coming in to buy Valentine's for a sweetheart - and I know both people (giver and receiver). Glad to be sharing sweet love! I really like recommending the all natural chocolates, then someone tries them for the first time, enjoys them as much as I do, and gives them to their sweetheart. I got a text from one customer that simply read, "Oh my" and my response was, "I know!"
Stop in to see the shop for yourself and make your sweetie happy many days a year, not just this one prescribed to us. Whether you're a hard core chocoholic, fan of retro dime store candy, or need a gift in a pinch, I think Gumney's hope will be realized: Heights Candy Bar will be a great, local destination.

Marich is a California based, family owned company that has been making premium candies for over 30 years
Hammond's, made in Denver, was skyrocketed into the national consciousness when Williams Sonoma started putting the candies in their ubiquitous catalogs

Heights Candy Bar - 833 Studewood 77007
Hours are 10-6 Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday & Monday)
Follow them on Facebook Heights Candy Bar

P.S. Oo La La has started a Facebook page as well. Follow Judy here: OoLaLa 

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