Candy store offers portal to the past
By Scott Akanewich
Jodi McCumber would often have a very sweet epiphany during visits to retail stores with her mother, Gina Zachmann.
“There are times when we would walk into a store and think, ‘Wow, I haven’t seen this candy since I was little,’” she said. “Me, now being a mother to my wonderful son Bradley, and Gina being my son’s grandmother, we often found ourselves buying candy that we missed, not for ourselves but to share with my son. So that got us thinking why not open an old-fashioned candy store with a country gift shop to boot?”
From that realization, Texas Honey Hole was born.
However, the origins of the project originally had nothing to do with sweet stuff, said McCumber.
“Gina and I thought about opening a gift shop in downtown Liberty Hill,” she said, of the store located on Loop 332 just north of CR 1869 near downtown. “However, Liberty Hill has a lot of different gift shops and we wanted to be different.”
So, different is what they did – featuring an underlying theme of providing people with intrinsic satisfaction through extrinsic gratification – with the ultimate goal to enhance one’s memory banks from days gone by.
“This is our way of bringing family together to share candy from their childhood,” said McCumber. “It’s a chance for adults to eat their favorites again and get the beautiful smiles back on their faces as the memories flow through their minds and it’s also a way of sharing candies of the past with children.”
Speaking of sweet sensations, fresh honey is also available, as McCumber also owns Jackass Honey Farms, which she has operated in Liberty Hill for eight years – although the only connection between the two entities is the Texas-themed animal on the store’s logo.
“The donkey kicking the beehive out of the tree is the logo for Jackass Honey Farms – Texas Honey Hole was given legal permission to use the logo within their logo,” said McCumber. “Gina and I chose to use that logo within the Texas Honey Hole logo in hopes the community will recognize the donkey and beehive and know they can purchase local raw honey within our store.”
Texas Honey Hole features a wide variety of different kinds of candy – and from different time periods – for those who are nostalgic, she said.
“For example, we carry 12 different flavors of smooth creamy fudges, 12 flavors of salt water taffy, local raw honey, retro candy, old-fashioned candy – including peanut butter bars, root beer barrels, zotz, astro pops and wacky wafers, just to name a few,” said McCumber. “But, we seriously have something for everyone, including sugar-free candy.”
But, that’s only the tip of the sugar-coated iceberg – with treats for every budget.
“The numbers are limitless. Texas Honey Hole currently has more then 100 types of candy in our store, starting at five cents and it goes up from there,” she said. “We wanted to keep some cost-effective candy in our store as well, because we want children to understand what it was like back in the day when a dollar would go so far. We also want parents to be able to give a ‘yes’ answer when their child asks if they can have some candy.”
According to McCumber, opening the store in Liberty Hill was the only logical choice, as far as she was concerned.
“We’ve never opened a business in a big city and to be honest, we would never even consider it,” said McCumber. “For the most part, we’re two country women that value the little things in life — being able to greet your customers by name when they walk through the door, to ask them about their family, to be able to donate to the community, invest our time into teaching children at the schools and be able to witness families spending time together in our store sharing laughs – there’s no other substitute for that. We wouldn’t have chosen to open our store anywhere else. Not to mention Liberty Hill is the most amazing community we’ve ever had the privilege of being a part of. We just don’t believe the big city would ever be a great fit for us.”
All that being said, big city or small town, the coronavirus doesn’t discriminate and the pandemic weighed on McCumber’s mind as she and Zachmann made plans for the grand opening, she said.
“I think it was a bigger risk for us as we didn’t know what was going to happen,” she said. “There was a lot of fear. We signed a two-year lease, paid the rent and got all of our products and decided to open a store during a pandemic, not knowing if we would be shut down due to COVID-19.”
Indeed, they were able to open, but much of the joy they hoped to bring to the community has – at least for the time being – been muffled by masks.
“Wearing a mask all day and having our customers come in with masks is hard. Don’t get us wrong, we would rather wear a mask and be open than to be shut down – but it’s hard having customers come in and say, ‘Do you remember me?” and you’re looking at a person with a mask on trying to remember them from their eyes and their voice. We can’t see their smiling faces when they find their childhood candy on the shelf and they can’t see us smiling when we tell them to have a blessed day. It really does hurt our hearts when we can’t even hug those customers who have become like family.”
So, what’s the one product in her store McCumber would recommend above all others?
A difficult proposition, she said, but one she hopes will keep customers returning for more.
“Bacon lollipops, fudge, honey,” said McCumber. “Honestly, I can’t just choose one, so I’ll list my top three. If they choose any of them, they’ll trust us enough to come back another time and try the next one on the list.”