by Lorie Lewis Ham
Recently a new shop opened in Downtown Reedley called Sweet Destination. I went in to check it out and was delighted by what I saw! This place is so charming and filled with so many unique items. The owner, Shelly Henderson, shared with me that the theme of “destination” is showcased throughout the store as she showed me their tables with street sign tabletops (Shelly’s co-owner and husband Mike built the tables), an old luggage cart, their counter is made out of a 100 year old door, and even their business cards are shaped like luggage tags! And their logo is built around an old post office cancellation stamp.
I took some time to chat with Shelly about Sweet Destinations, and enjoy a cup of Lanna Coffee. I look forward to going back there often.
KRL: What was the inspiration for Sweet Destination?
Shelley: I got the idea of opening our shop nine years ago when Coffee and Candy was for sale. I was still teaching at the time, but I purchased some of their fixtures and props when they went out of business knowing that someday we would open our own shop.
KRL: This looks like a family business. What other family members are involved?
Shelley: Two of my sisters helped set up the store. My niece spent countless hours entering all of our inventory, and she currently works in the shop one day a week. Our daughter helps with marketing. She contacted media sources when we first opened. She also came up with the idea and created flyers for our shop being the drop-off station for letters to Santa and created the Wish List family activity. She organized the social media blitz of liking and sharing our gift basket Facebook photo during Ladies’ Night Out, which reached over 11,000 people.
KRL: Are you from Reedley? Do you have a background in business?
Shelley: I was born in Reedley but grew up in Dinuba. I attended Dinuba schools from first grade through high school, then, attended Reedley College. I transferred to Fresno State where I obtained my business degree.
After I graduated, I married Mike, my high school sweetheart, and then got my single subject teaching credential in business. My first teaching job was in Clovis, and then we moved back to Dinuba after living in Fresno the first few years of our married life.
I stayed home to raise our two children and then went back to Fresno State and obtained my MBA in 1992. I was an adjunct faculty member at Reedley College for four years and then was hired as a business instructor at Dinuba High School in 1994.
During my tenure at Dinuba High, I taught in the business department for two years and then was asked to take on the position of Activities Director, Leadership teacher, and Student Council advisor. I passionately took on this challenge for the next 18 years. In 2014, I transitioned into the Home Economics Department, so I could help the new activities director and finally retired after 22 years at Dinuba High School in 2016.
Mike and I have two fabulous children and five grandchildren, and we live on five acres just east of Dinuba.
To test the waters while I was still teaching, I became a co-op at Trinkets and Treasures in Kingsburg and sold children’s toys. For nearly 2-1/2 years, I got a taste of purchasing product, helping customers, operating the register, etc, while I worked some days after school and some Saturdays. I wanted to learn all I could about retail and make sure I would love working in a store as much as I thought I would before opening our own store.
KRL: Why did you decide on opening your shop in Reedley?
Shelley: We chose Reedley because of its supportive community and quaint downtown. When the Reedley Pharmacy building came up for sale about five years ago, we thought this could eventually be the perfect building for our shop, so we purchased it.
KRL: What led you to choose the items you would sell? Why a sweet shop?
Shelley: I wanted to create a shop that was fun for all ages and one that would give families the opportunity to experience a good time together. Everyone loves candy, and there was a void left when Coffee & Candy closed nine years ago.
I wanted to create a shop that was unique and a treat for local residents, one where they felt like they were at the coast or as some have said, “I feel like I’m in a Hallmark movie.” There were no shops in this area that offered fine chocolates, bulk candies, children’s toys, and infant clothing and accessories, so we wanted to fill that void and bring valley residents something special.
KRL: Your business supports different local businesses, how did all that come to be? What made you decide that you wanted to represent other local businesses in that way?
Shelley: Supporting local is so important. Small businesses are the backbone of America, and we need to help each other to thrive. We wanted to promote local products, so we decided to sell Lanna Coffee from Fresno. We brew freshly ground coffee every morning as well as sell their bags of ground and whole beans. In addition to them having great coffee, they give 30 percent of their proceeds back to the Thai villages they partner with in order to improve their quality of life. Our teas are made in Hanford by L.T. Sue, and we feature one of their teas each day for customers to drink as well as sell four different valley blends in sealable bags. Proceeds from their tea sales are helping to rebuild Chinatown in Hanford.
Our fine chocolates are made by Stafford’s Chocolates in Porterville, and our pastries are baked fresh each morning by Martha Macias, head of the Home Economics Department at Dinuba High School. We also just started carrying honey from Bradshaw Farms out of Visalia. Yachiyo Ayers, from Reedley, makes wooden signs and takes custom orders, and Ed Abair, from Dinuba, makes beautiful wooden rocking chairs for children.
We can’t compete with on-line sales or big box stores, but we can provide a warm welcome and smile when customers walk through our door. We have a designated area where children can actually play with some of our toys, and we can help their parents or grandparents choose that perfect age-appropriate gift. We can offer that homemade or local product, help moms-to-be register for their baby showers, and create a special gift basket for any special occasion. When customers purchase that perfect gift, we’re happy to wrap it up in a bag with tissue and a ribbon—complimentary of course.
KRL: How long did it take from the idea to actually opening the shop?
Shelley: From the first idea to opening took about nine years. We have visited just about every candy and toy shop during all of our vacations over those years as well as bought vintage props at estate sales, antique shows, and auctions in anticipation of our opening.
Our store dedication and soft opening was on Saturday, October 29, and our first day open to the public was on Monday, October 31.
KRL: What else can customers find in your shop?
Shelley: In addition to the products I have already mentioned, we also carry greeting cards; retro toys and candy; bulk nuts, granolas, and trail mixes; gourmet popcorns and snacks; hot chocolate; children’s books; puppets; plush animals; and role play costumes for year-round fun.
(Editor’s note: When I visited the store to take photos, Sherry mentioned that the retro toys are very popular! What a perfect unique Christmas gift!)
KRL: Can people special order any baked goods through your store?
Shelley: People can place special orders for baked goods, gift baskets, bagged candies, and nuts.
KRL: Are there any other features unique to your store?
Shelley: One of the things that makes our store so warm and inviting is the environment. We have exposed a natural brick wall and the original tin-punched ceiling. A beautiful laminate floor runs the length of the entire store and many of the props and fixtures have a vintage flair…from the wringer washing machine filled with popcorn to the ’50s Wedgewood stove sporting baking and kitchen-type toys for creative play.
We see our store as a ministry to encourage and to love on our customers. We want to get to know our customers by name and hear their story, to learn about their lives, to come alongside them in good and bad times. Sometimes, people just need a listening ear.
KRL: What plans do you have for the future?
Shelley: We’ve only been open one month, and we’re dog paddling as fast as we can. We honestly haven’t given much thought to future plans.
However, when things slow down a bit, we will start doing some of our own dipping and make caramel apples, chocolate-dipped strawberries, chocolate covered pretzel sticks, etc.
KRL: I saw the cute tables in your shop. Does that mean people are able to come and hang out?
Shelley: We have many customers who get a cup of coffee or tea and maybe a pastry and sit and chat for a while. During Shop Local Saturday, our tables were full most of the day with families visiting from out of town for Thanksgiving and wanting to experience the “new shop” in town. People are more than welcome to sit at our street sign tables and just hang out since we have free Wi-Fi.
KRL: Are you doing anything special for the Christmas season?
Shelley: Children are bringing in their letters to Santa and putting them in our mailbox addressed to the North Pole, and I love giving each child a Christmas candy as a ‘Thank You.’ Families are also coming in and filling out our Wish List form with their children.
Santa Claus will be at our shop on Saturday, December 17, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., which should be a lot of fun.
KRL: This has been ‘delicious!’ Thank you.
Editor’s note: Since this interview, Sweet Destination has added walnuts from Olson Trading Co. Inc. There are many different varieties. And they plan to continue to add more local, unique items as they go along!
Monday-Friday—9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Saturdays—9 a.m. to 4 p.m.