OAKLAND — Eager to open a business, Jason and Lydia Stevens nearly fell into a handful of industries. They considered opening a gym, a play factory, a day care and even a hot dog cart — which they are licensed for — until they hit the sweet spot: a candy shop.

Two years ago, Candy Hollow opened at 47 Main St. in Oakland, a roughly 800-square-foot, stand-alone store that has seen past lives as a hair salon, dog groomer, church, video rental store and pizza joint, among others. Saturday marks the end of Candy Hollow’s tenure at the facility. On Tuesday, the store will reopen across the street, in a 2,000-square-foot space at 54 Main St.

Addy Ames, right, and brother, Wyatt, of Clinton, watch Tuesday as their mother makes candy selections for them at Candy Hollow in Oakland on Tuesday. The business is moving 47 Main St. to 54 Main St.

“There is so much more we want to do, but in the space we have, we’re bursting at the seams,” said Lydia Stevens, 30, who staffs the shop every day and is its chief fudge maker.

With the extra space, Candy Hollow will be able to host events and expand its offerings to include healthy alternatives such as smoothies. The Stevens, of Fairfield, said offering story time, book clubs, paint nights, birthday parties and family events are all on the table, though they will begin setting a programming schedule in early 2020. The family-run company currently restricts non-retail operations to candy bars and buffets at events.

“The sky’s the limit,” Lydia Stevens said of the future. “If we’re going to do (events), we want to do them properly, not just move tables to make space. It’s got to look professional.”

Candy Hollow’s expansion comes on the heels of an effort to make downtown Oakland more business friendly. Feedback from the town’s comprehensive plan process has indicated an interest in downtown enhancement projects, including adding recreational, cultural and dining opportunities as well as expanding high-speed internet access.

“Because of this, we are seeing increased interest in Oakland for commercial development,” said Elaine Theriault-Currier, development coordinator for the Central Maine Growth Council.

Candy Hollow has built a brand around charm and personal touches. It sells hundreds of candies, ranging from old-time classics, such as root beer barrels, to the boldest new flavors to hit the market, including Trump Hair Cotton Candy. Most are displayed in glass jars with silver lids. The walls are a soft blue with pink accents and there are touches of red-and-white candy stripes as decor. Uplifting, nostalgic music plays outside to greet customers before they even enter the door. All of this will translate to the new location, the couple assured.

“It’s the closest thing to a time machine,” said Jason Stevens, 39, who noted one of his favorite things is watching elderly customers delight in fond memories. “The majority of the time, people share memories about specific candies when they come in here.”

Lydia Stevens said she likes seeing kids at eye level, with all the candy jars reminding her why opening Candy Hollow was the right business decision. Although she did not even know how to make fudge six months ago, a fellow Mainer sold her equipment and walked her through the process. In no time, she was mixing up “little fudge Frankensteins” that resulted in flavors like Hunter’s Delight — a chocolate, caramel, melted peanut butter and Reeses Pieces blend — and Boston Cream Pie, carrot cake, red velvet and coffee s’mores that rotate weekly. Now, Candy Hollow also sells fudge-dipped pretzels and apples.

“Other than being a mother, fudge is my calling,” Lydia Stevens said. In all seriousness, she added, running Candy Hollow has helped her teach her children — Caimbree, 9, and Callum, 7 — that “you have to work hard, but you should be able to love what you do.” The kids enjoy helping out at the store or participating in Facebook Live candy reviews, she said.

Though Jason Stevens’ full-time job is as a program director at the nonprofit Beckett Family of Services, he also helps plan Candy Hollow’s growth. In six months, he hopes to bring sales online. The store has already built a long-distance following among people who visit Oakland in the summer but live across the country. Many request fudge trays and other items when they are not able to walk into the shop in person.

Lydia Stevens prepares to score fudge in the kitchen at Candy Hollow in Oakland on Tuesday. The business is moving from its current location at 47 Main St. to 54 Main St. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

Both Jason and Lydia Stevens described themselves, as being “gypsies” at some point in their lives. Lydia moved around southern Maine, Auburn and Cornville as a child. Jason grew up in Oakland, but left for Florida, Texas and other states after high school, thinking he would never move back to his hometown. When he wanted to settle down, raise a family and plant roots, he realized Oakland was exactly where he wanted to be.

“This town helped raise me” after his parents divorced,  Jason Stevens said. “(Owning Candy Hollow) lets me give back to the community that raised me. It’s very important to us that we stay in Oakland.”

In return, the Stevens said Oakland has been extremely welcoming of the business. When the couple started exploring places into which they expand, local residents said, “The whole town will help you move — we want you to stay,” Lydia Stevens said.

Theriault-Currier echoed that sentiment.

“Candy Hollow’s expansion and relocation is a testament to the quality of place in downtown Oakland,” she said. “Lydia and Jason have worked tirelessly upon the town’s foundation as a family-friendly, beautiful, lakeside destination, and Candy Hollow truly embodies and enhances that spirit.”

Jason Stevens said he hopes Candy Hollow will help continue to restore Oakland’s downtown.

“When I was a kid, you didn’t have to go further than Main Street to get what you needed,” he said. “I like to think we’ve given people a reason to come back to Main Street.”

STEAM Engine Education was the previous occupant of 54 Main St., according to Theriault-Currier. The building is owned by Danielle and Matt Marquis, who also own Higgins & Bolduc Agency in downtown Oakland. A ribbon-cutting is scheduled for Friday.


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