A mega candy warehouse comfortably nestled in Chandler has a history as sweet as the candy itself.
Sweeties Candy of Arizona, on the southwest corner of Alma School Road and Warner Road, is Arizona’s largest candy store and specializes in nostalgic treats, toys and soda.
From the store’s youngest customers to its eldest candy veterans, Sweeties gives each customer a chance to act like a kid in a candy shop regardless of the generation of sweet treats they seek.
“Believe it or not, the kids are usually more reserved than mom and dad and grandma and grandpa. Mom and dad go crazy because now they have the budget – they didn’t have when they were kids so it’s fun to watch them get excited,” said owner Mike Manzo.
“That’s what sets us apart. We always say we sell happiness one piece at a time,” he added.
Manzo has been wrapped up in candy his entire life.
Since 1975, he watched his father, Chuck, handle sweets every day as a broker in the confectionary business in Ohio. Chuck represented about 75 percent of the classic brands sold in Sweeties today.
But when Manzo was 11, he unraveled his true love for sugary treats - after lending a hand in a neighbor’s confectionery on Saturdays.
After a long day’s work restocking shelves of sweets, mocked by their deliciousness and crinkling cellophane wrapping, the neighbor paid Manzo for his work and self-control with a white two-pound paper bag.
“I could put whatever candy I wanted in there and take it home with me. I was the richest sixth-grader in the world and I’ve been hooked on candy ever since,” said Manzo.
While his time spent around candy taught him the ins and outs of the business, it also taught him about a crazy little thing called love.
“My dad would represent the lines in Tom’s store, and when they would go to candy conventions, Tom’s daughter, Dawn, and I would have to hangout and wait for them.
“We grew up together, our homes were actually back to back and we’d see each other every day,” Manzo said.
After years spent as playmates collecting bruised knees and building forts together, the two started dating and realized their love was much sweeter than most.
The couple took their love on the road from Ohio to Arizona to spread the reach of Sweeties treats.
After opening up shop in Chandler, now at 1986 N. Alma School Road, Dawn and Mike knew they were here to stay.
Today, Manzo and Dawn, are married, and just as the brand grows, so does their family.
The couple’s two children Giovanni, 7, and Gianna, 3, are now living every kid’s dream of growing up in a candy shop, just as their father did before them.
“Of course, it would be great if they took over the store one day, but they can go down whatever career path they want. It would be really cool though,” said Manzo.
But taking over the superstore comes will come with a lot of responsibility, as Manzo has even Willy Wonka beat.
The 13,000 square foot facility houses over 4,000 different kinds of treats, 360 kinds of glass bottled cane sugar sodas and about 185 old-fashioned toys and trinkets.
Brands like Bazooka, Cadbury, Clark, Pez, Pop Rocks, Push Pops, Smarties, Taffy Town and Tootsie Roll line the shelves as a nod to the candy that’s been helping create America’s sweetest memories for generations.
Looking ahead to the future of candy, the store also has extravagant displays of things like Harry Potter chocolate wands, emoji lollipops, and full-sized gummy pizzas.
But the crown jewel of the establishment, Manzo said, is what he calls the “Jelly Belly Oasis.”
With a massive red jelly bean hanging overhead, the center of the store has a jelly bean bar comprised of over 80 different flavors.
The display has the most jelly bean flavors in the entire western region of the United States.
“People come from all over the country to see it in person. It’s really great to see the enthusiasm people have about our candy,” Manzo said.
But Manzo said at the end of the day, his eyes are not set on being the biggest, sweetest candy store in the west. His true mission is to spread the joy that candy has given him.
“Everybody works hard, at their jobs, at home, in life. Life can be tough. And I think everybody deserves a sweet treat, especially the treats that bring you back to simpler times,” said Manzo.