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Bulk Candy sweetens approach to retail shoppers by doubling its store

The door to Bulk Candy Store opens and the sweetest of aromas greets customers.

“I don’t smell it,” owner Ken Shenkman says.

It’s understandable and probably a good thing, that after 25 years in the candy business he’s susceptible to one less temptation. “You learn what you really, really like and then you learn to avoid it,” he says, though he allows he has a weakness for the Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews he stocks.

They’re on the shelves, along with every delicious brand that ever found its way into your lunchbox next to your grilled cheese sandwich. Bonamo Turkish Taffy, candy buttons, wax bottles and lips, Sugar Daddys and Sugar Babies, Mary Janes, Charleston Chews, Chunkys, chewing gum cigarettes, you name it. You might not have seen them on store shelves in a long time but they’re still available, he says.

As for cavities, “I’m good friends with my dentist,” Shenkman says.

In fact they met through the business. And you have to admire the dentist’s financial chops, for opening an office across the hall from the candy shop, when it was in the Palm Beach Mall.

Bulk Candy Store long ago outgrew that location, though. The mall was dying, so Shenkman moved the family business to a Lake Worth warehouse in 2009, and then to the current location, on Jog Road near Southern Boulevard, at the end of 2012.

Now it’s in transition again, as the more visible location at 235 N. Jog has convinced him to convert more of its 17,000 square feet into retail space, doubling the size of the store. A new candy-themed signpost is going up outside the already-hard-to-miss purple and yellow building, to let people know that “Bulk” doesn’t just mean warehouse.

With a grand re-opening set for Saturday, April 30, workers are busy putting the final touches on everything from the checkout counter, to shelving and landscaping. A gourmet popcorn room, where staffers will make kettle corn, blue raspberry, green apple and other flavors, is under construction. Shenkman, 51, says he’s looking forward to that because, because it’s a new item, he might be able to smell it.

There’ll also be room in the store for classes, for people who want to learn to make cakes and cake pops.

The store, which grosses more than $3 million a year and employs about 15 full-time, will continue to do much of its business through online and warehouse sales. The biggest orders are for parties — weddings, for example, that have candy bowls for guests. And he stocks rabbinically-inspected Kosher gummies, so there’s bar mitzvah business, as well.

On a typical Monday, warehouse workers will ship 150 boxes. Many of the requests are for a “nostalgia mix,” of brands from years past.

The company also has an annual presence at the South Florida Fair, and not just because Ken’s brother Brian, 48, wins the Girl Scout Cookie Eating Contest every year. Every summer, Brian takes a crew and travels there and to fairs all over the country, setting up candy stands.

The business has weathered its tough times, particularly when, along with the family’s Auntie Annie’s pretzel shop, it found itself locked into a 10-year lease at the Palm Beach Mall during the mall’s slow and fatal decline. Eventually they stopped paying rent and moved out.

In retrospect, “it was probably the best thing that ever happened,” Shenkman says. “Business is growing rapidly now.”

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