The Willy Wonka of Union County

Buddy Boy Candy celebrates first anniversary

by Josh Whitener

Barrels of vintage candy, jars of lollipops and yogurt-covered raisins, fine chocolates and plush toys of all kinds create a sweet wonderland at Buddy Boy Candy. Josh Whitener/UCW photo

INDIAN TRAIL – Candy stores were once a popular destination for families. One local woman would love to make that the case again.

There was a time when children would drag their parents to a candy shop no matter how far away they lived, eager to set foot in a wonderland of sweet treats with barrels of peppermints, mountains of jelly beans and lollipop trees. But with many people turning to big box stores for quick-hit shopping, quaint candy shops seem to be a dying breed.

That’s exactly the reason Andriani Tsioutsias saw opening a vintage candy store in Indian Trail as a golden opportunity, and Buddy Boy Candy will celebrate its first anniversary this weekend.

The only candy shop in Union County – and one of the only free-standing candy stores in the region – opened its doors July 1, 2011.

“We just wanted to bring back the classic jars, the bulk, the barrels and everything,” Tsioutsias said. “They’re kind of like extinct dinosaurs. Plus, we live in Union County, so we wanted to bring our business to Union County.”

Located at 553 Indian Trail Road S. in the same shopping center as Food Lion, Buddy Boy Candy looks and feels like a classic 1950’s candy store. The spacious shop has jars of lollipops and yogurt-covered raisins, a wall full of jellybeans of every flavor, barrels full of vintage candy and a display bearing M&M’s of every color.

But Buddy Boy doesn’t just sell candy. Fine chocolates purchased fresh every week, classic glass bottles of Coca-Cola and Sprite, peanuts, slushies and locally-made kettle corn are part of the store’s inventory. Sugar-free candies are available to those who are diabetic or simply wish to eat a little healthier. The shop also sells plush animals and vintage wooden toys made courtesy of a family friend.

Josh Whitener/UCW photo

Tsioutsias said the goal was to establish a kid-friendly environment that was a throwback to the culture of the mid-20th century. Customers browse around to a soundtrack of music from the 40s, 50s and 60s, and bright red and yellow colors decorate the walls to create a “happy atmosphere.”

The shop also has three small tables and a small bar with classic metal stools where families can sit down and eat their candy and chocolates and drink their slushies. And like any classic family-owned business, Buddy Boy Candy guarantees excellent service.

“We treat everybody like friends and family,” Tsioutsias said. “Once they come in, everybody’s a friend.”

Tsioutsias, who came over from Greece to California with her parents in 1983, grew up loving traditional candy shops. About two years ago, several years after moving to Union County, Tsioutsias had the idea to start her own business and established Buddy Boy Candy out of pocket.

Although she says everything kind of fell into place at the right time, starting a business in this economy hasn’t been a cakewalk. Not only does she have a company to run, but Tsioutsias also has a husband who works a full-time job and two children – a 9-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son – to take care of.

“It’s tough, I mean, I’m not going to lie to you,” Tsioutsias said. “It’s scary but you have to take risks. I said I’m gonna do it and I’m gonna try to give it my best. I just had to pray and take a leap of faith.”

Finding reputable candy vendors that sell the vintage sweets also was a challenge. “I think it was hardest to find good, reputable distributors that had the candy,” Tsioutsias said. “That was the main thing, ‘cause you don’t want to sell whatever candy to whoever. We only get the freshest ones.”

Tsioutsias looks for opportunities to take her business to the community to spread the word and will have the company vehicle in Indian Trail’s Fourth of July parade. But she also uses Buddy Boy Candy to give back to the community, having recently visited Indian Trail Elementary and Metrolina Christian Academy to provide honors students with sweet rewards.

And now the ultimate question: who (or what) is “Buddy Boy?” Tsioutsias said the candy shop’s name is somewhat of a fusion of the past and the present. “Back in the 50s, they’d say, ‘Hey, buddy,’ but I also call my son ‘Buddy,’” Tsioutsias said. “So I kind of named it after my son.”

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