It is the calm before the sugar rush.



Workers scurry about what is billed as the largest candy store in North America in anticipation of b.a. Sweetie’s biggest shopping season of the year — Easter.



You would think Halloween would be the biggest, but owner Tom Scheiman says his sales at Easter far eclipse those around Halloween.



For one, he said, retailers like Wal-Mart sell most of their Halloween candy at a loss to drive shoppers into their stores. It is also a holiday when the big brands like Hershey’s dominate sales, and shoppers are not looking for more unique candy or specialty brands.



“People know us for the variety of different candy we offer,” Scheiman said.



Take jelly beans. He stocks some 20 different brands of those alone and customers have particular favorites.





Over the aisles and aisles that encompass 40,000 square feet, customers at b.a. Sweetie can chose from some 4,500 different types of candy weighing some 550,000 pounds.



Want to buy everything on the store shelves? It will set you back a cool $3 million, Scheiman said.



That’s a lot of candy.



A ‘neat’ experience





(Michael Chritton/Akron Beacon Journal)

Diane Croston (left), of Louisville, waits as her daughter, Cecilia, 3, makes a candy selection at the b. a. Sweetie Candy Company in Cleveland.


On a typical Saturday, around 2,300 customers will file through the doors of the candy warehouse/store on Brookpark Road in Cleveland.



“They will bring the kids,” he said. “It’s fun to see grandma and grandpa and mom and dad go on a trip down memory lane and tell the kids ‘this was my favorite when I was a kid.’ ”



The youngsters will then share their own candy memories.



“It’s pretty neat,” he said.



The store offers a wide variety of the typical favorites like Reese’s Cups.



But even these can spark a debate. Are the ones in the two-packs better tasting than the single large Reese’s Cup? Although the ingredients are the same, Scheiman believes the single large one is tops.



There’s the age-old debate over whether the Reese’s Halloween-themed pumpkins, Christmas tree-shaped treats or Easter eggs are best.



For Scheiman’s taste, the Easter egg is far superior. “It is the size of the walls [of chocolate] and the size of the peanut butter,” he said, that makes all the difference.



Preparing for Easter





(Michael Chritton/Akron Beacon Journal)

A herd of Lindt chocolate rabbits in their warren at the b. a. Sweetie Candy Company in Cleveland.


The closer Easter gets, the bigger the crowds.



For Easter week b.a. Sweetie will have 15 cash registers ready for the crush and two police officers on hand to help direct traffic outside, as some 18,000 customers come into the store in just a week.



“It is just amazing,” he said.



The draw is the candy and particularly those that are hard to find. They are excited to find elusive candy like Bonomo Turkish Taffy.



A lot of times, Scheiman said, smaller producers of candy are gobbled up by bigger companies and are simply shut down after a few years. The bigger players let the patents expire, or eventually sell off the name to a smaller candy entrepreneur.



This was the case with the old-fashioned Turkish Taffy, known by generations for breaking into pieces when slammed on a counter after it was refrigerated. The brand was purchased by a larger company and then disappeared.



When someone told Scheiman they were bringing the taffy back, he told them he had a stash of the original stored away that could be sent off to a lab to perfect the recipe.





(Michael Chritton/Akron Beacon Journal)

Temo's Chocolates are one of several Akron area products for sale at the b. a. Sweetie Candy Company in Cleveland.


Whenever he hears that a brand is being discontinued, Scheiman will rush from his office to grab a box or two for safekeeping. This explains the Chiclets gum that now has a place in his cluttered office, waiting for the day someone comes looking to resurrect that brand.



“It is really sad because there is a market for these brands,” he said.



The most requested and missed candy is the old Marathon Bar in its familiar 10-inch red package: “It’s been off the market since the ’80s.”



Scheiman also works to make sure the small family-owned businesses can find a place on his shelves, including local ones like Akron’s Temo’s Chocolate.



“They are one of the best candy makers anywhere,” he said. “This is about the little guys supporting each other.”



Sizable soda selection





(Michael Chritton/Akron Beacon Journal)

Dennis Gennars stocks a case of the classic Vernor's ginger ale at the b. a. Sweetie Candy Company in Cleveland.


Since its move to new bigger digs two years ago, b.a. Sweetie has expanded its selection of bottles of pure cane sugar soda.



They now stock some 300 different types from old fashioned Mountain Dew to Cheerwine to Lester’s Fixins Maple Syrup Soda. They even sell varieties of Akron’s own Norka cola.



To make it to the shelf here, the rules are simple. It must be made from cane sugar, and it must be in bottles.





(Michael Chritton/Akron Beacon Journal)

Virgil's micro brewed Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg Root Beer is among the hundreds of flavors offered at the b. a. Sweetie Candy Company in Cleveland.


Last year, they sold 155,000 bottles of pop alone at $1.99 a bottle or $6.99 a four-pack, and you can mix and match.



Dennis Gennaro is the resident pop guru. And like the candy, he said, you have to do some sleuthing to find and procure certain brands.



Gennaro said customers are clamoring to buy RC Cola in a vintage bottle. The problem is finding a distributor that not only sells it in a bottle, but also makes it with cane sugar.



He said they found a bottler in southern Ohio but they only distribute as far north as New Philadelphia, so they will likely have to send a truck to pick it up.



The store’s top seller is sugar-laden Dr. Pepper with the old logo and the numbers 10, 2 and 4, which symbolized the best times to crack open a bottle.



Gennaro has his own personal favorite — Vernors original ginger ale that dates back to 1866.



“I had one for lunch,” he said. “It can be an acquired taste. I just like it.”



Rich in history





(Michael Chritton/Akron Beacon Journal)

Giant candy figures welcome shoppers at the b. a. Sweetie Candy Company in Cleveland.


The store has a large Soda Shoppe, where you can sit down and enjoy a cold bottle of pop, an ice cream cone or other frozen treats and baked goods that are all made in-house. They make 36 flavors of ice cream along with soft serve frozen custard or yogurt with more than three dozen toppings.



An adjacent 36-hole miniature golf course will open for the season in late May.



The business dates back to 1950 and although there have been four locations over the years, it has always been on Brookpark Road. It started selling strictly wholesale, bagging candy and selling it to other retailers like Fazio’s and Friendly Drug.



After Scheiman and his wife, Judi, purchased the business in 1980 it continued selling and distributing candy to retailers but also began dabbling in retail, opening several stores under the Joey’s Candies brand — named after their son Joe. Those stores all closed in the 1990s.





(Michael Chritton/Akron Beacon Journal)

Tom Scheiman, owner of the b. a. Sweetie Candy Company, holds the wrapper of his favorite confection, a Chunky bar.


But Scheiman said he loves seeing the joy on customers’ faces when they find a particular candy of their youth, so he has reinvested in the retail side by carefully designing the store, which he promises will be the “last time” the business moves — at least in his lifetime.



So does the king of candy partake in his sweet success? Of course.



“Every time I eat a sandwich for lunch, I have to have a piece of chocolate,” he said as he rummaged through the trash can in his office to find the discarded Chunky Bar wrapper as proof. “Same way with dinner. I just have to have one piece of candy.”



Craig Webb, whose go-to candy is red miniature Swedish Fish, can be reached at cwebb@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3547.