LEBANON, Ohio -- As a kid, Kevin Snowden was the envy of other children. Every day after school, the bus dropped him off at a place many of them could only dream of: a candy store.
“When I was growing up, my dad had (a couple of) candy stores,” he said. His father, Oley Snowden, used to own candy stores in Fairborn and West Jefferson. “I was the kid who got off the bus at the candy store.”
Kevin Snowden still surrounds himself with candy, except now he runs a candy store alongside his dad in downtown Lebanon. The father-and-son team opened Lebanon Candy and Sports Cards in May, and since that time, the store has doubled in size.
“I’m business partners with my father, who owns the business,” he said.
Prior to the candy and sports cards business, his father ran an antiques business in what used to be one big space.
“He brought me on to start selling online and I’ve been doing that for four or five years now,” Snowden said.
According to Snowden, his dad put up a wall to divide the space, selling candy and sports cards on one side and the antiques on the other. The candy and cards business quickly took off, so they decided to separate the sports cards from the candy store and bring the cards over to the antiques side of the space.
The candy store is a treasure trove of roughly 450 different types of candy, ranging from retro sweets to hard-to-find candy.
“You walk in for the first time and you see candy you’ve never seen since you were a kid,” Snowden said.
The store offers a plethora of old-fashioned candy, such as Mary Janes (peanut butter chews), Zotz (Italian-made candy with a sour, fizzy center), Slo Pokes (caramel bars) and even the kooky Wax Fangs (waxy chewing gum). And for those who dare, there’s the Cricket Lick-It Sucker -- a real cricket encased in hard candy.
“I didn’t know if they would sell, but most of them are gone,” Oley Snowden said, adding that the unusual candy has been around since he was in high school.
A wall of Jelly Belly beans features fun flavors ranging from “very cherry” to “buttered popcorn” to “draft beer.” (“We’re Jelly Belly dealers. We have probably 75 different bulk options,” Kevin Snowden said.) There’s also a bank of gummy bears with more than a dozen choices, including banana, red raspberry and cinnamon.
“These Albanese (brand) gummy bears – they’re flying off the shelf,” the younger Snowden said. “Normally when you get gummy bears you get an assortment, but we can do individual flavors.”
There are many options for licorice fans, too, including licorice chews, black Scottie dogs and the colorful licorice bridge mix, an assortment of licorice pastels and buttons. The selection extends into the nostalgic “la pipette licorice pipes,” black licorice made in the shape of pipes.
A chocolate case is filled with goodies such as sea salt caramel chocolate (dark and milk chocolate), chocolate-covered pretzels and even chocolate-covered potato chips. The store sources its chocolate from Gertrude Hawk Chocolates, an 80-year-old company based in Pennsylvania.
“These sea salt caramels – we can’t keep enough of them,” he said.
Lebanon Candy also carries soda by one of the oldest soda bottling companies in New England, Avery’s Beverages. While the “Totally Gross Line” of sodas such as Dog Drool and Zombie Brain Juice are a hit with the kids, the politically inclined might opt for the Trump Tonic or Hillary Hooch.
In about a month, the Snowdens plan to expand the store another 20 feet into the back to sell even more candy. (“I’d probably do a wall of M&M’s,” Oley Snowden said.)
They’ve also catered weddings where they’ve set up elaborate candy bars and even a caramel apple bar. “We’re doing pretty well selling candy,” Kevin said. “The response from the community has been fantastic.”
He is still a kid at heart when it comes to the candy store.
“People come in here so happy,” he said with a wide smile. “This is more fun than selling antiques.”
Lebanon Candy and Sports Cards
38 E. Mulberry St., Lebanon
Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon-6 p.m. Sunday
Grace Yek writes about food for WCPO Digital. She is a certified chef-de-cuisine with the American Culinary Federation, and a former chemical engineer. Questions or comments? Connect with her on Twitter: @Grace_Yek.