Business sweet at 100-year-old Veni’sPublished 11:18am Monday, January 11, 2010
By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Veni’s Sweet Shop in dowtown Niles.
Unfortunately, until a couple years ago not many outside of Niles knew the quaint handmade, hand-dipped candy shop exists.
When Linda and Larry Skwarcan took over the store in April 2008, one of their priorities was to get the word out to customers outside of the community.
“We’ve done advertising, which the store had not done a lot of in the past, so we get customers from Elkhart, St. Joe, South Bend, who were unaware that we’ve been here for 100 years,” Linda said. “We now get a whole lot of new people from a 50-mile radius.”
The increased advertising, along with many other significant changes, Veni’s Sweet Shop is soaring with a huge increase in business this past year.
The numbers are eye-popping, but Skwarcan did not want to release them in print.
Skwarcan said the increase has been “significant,” which is quite the understatement.
A big reason Veni’s is selling its handmade sweet treats at such an astounding rate is the wider selection, including new candies and the return of old treats.
“We’re doing a wider number of confections,” Skwarcan said. “Simple things like dried fruit, dried cherries and cranberries were very popular at Christmas. We have different meltaways, improved creams, an Oreo-style truffle, so we’re trying new things.”
The store also changed its recipe for white chocolate, if you could really call it that before.
“There are strict government standards for what you can call chocolate and what you can’t,” Skwarcan said. “Technically it wasn’t chocolate before. It was a white confection coating. As soon as we found out the difference and that the store was selling things as chocolate that was not chocolate, we yanked it out and started from scratch. That was a big improvement too.”
Skwarcan has also brought a new sense of creativity to the old-fashioned shop.
The store has been taking more specialty orders, like candy birds nests, chocolate bowls and chocolate with logos and photos imprinted on it.
“Before Christmas, I think (my co-workers) wanted to kill me, because I didn’t say no to anyone,” she said.
The store has not only improved its product but also its look and feel. Since the Skwarcan’s took over the store, it has undergone a complete interior and exterior remodel with new signage and seasonal decorating in the windows.
“It is so much more of a charming place to go,” she said. “Whereas before, the chocolate was always good, but it didn’t have the same feel as it does now. That has greatly improved traffic. We have people tell us that everybody notices and appreciates what we’ve done.”
The store also expanded in September. When a barbershop next door went out of business, Veni’s turned it into a new dipping room. On occasion, the blinds of the windows will be opened so passers by can look in at the candy-making process.
Veni’s also made it easier for people to get into the store by extending its hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“It was to accommodate people who work, because if you work, you could never get here,” she said. “The two weeks before Christmas we were open 8-8. We’ll do that again two weeks before Valentine’s for easier hours for the customers.”
Skwarcan said the changes are not over, telling the customers to be on the look out for some new candies for Valentine’s Day.