Laura Cartledge delves into The Sweet Jar and finds a pick ‘n’ mix story of sweets, love and hardwork.
The bell jingles as you enter The Sweet Jar and already you know anything is possible.
From the sandcastle made of fudge in the window to the technicolor treats lining the walls, it is a haven for little and big kids alike.
With a shop in Southgate, Chichester, and The Arcade, Bognor Regis, owners Jan and Matt Ellison are proof business is sweet.
“I love this – meeting happy smiley people all day,” Jan admits, “you can’t help but be happy too.”
“It was a flash of inspiration on Matt’s part,” she recalls. “It was always me, wherever we went out for the day or on holiday, I always hunted out the sweet shop.
“Then, one rainy February day he was walking down the seafront saw the shop and thought ‘that would make a great old fashioned sweet shop’.”
The Bognor venue opened that August and this year will mark five years in business.
But as a former miner and hospital worker to say it has been quite a journey for the couple is an understatemsent.
“We knew nothing when we started,” Jan grins. “We both had full time jobs when we first opened the Bognor shop and we worked weekends.”
When Matt found the space in Chichester…
“He stood across the road for ages, in all weathers, making note of the footfall and three months after Bognor we opened here,” she explains. “I handed my notice in at the hospital, then, after we opened Matt got made redundant.”
This twist of fate made the new venture a real leap of faith. But, the smile on Jan’s face tells you it has been worth it.
“I love playing shops,” she admits with childlike glee. “He likes the organising, the sourcing and the buying.”
It seems like the perfect match and sharing the love of what they do goes hand-in-hand with wedding trends old and new.
“We have two types of people – some are really focused and know exactly what they want and others don’t,” says Jan. “Some people like to go for the traditional sugared almonds in the organza bags or, well, the world is your oyster really.
“Sometimes people give me a colour scheme and just say ‘surprise me,’ she adds. “We’ve done a black and red themed wedding – the challenge of finding different colours is something I enjoy.”
“Then there was an old couple who wanted to recreate what they had on their wedding day for their anniversary,” she smiles. “They ordered 40 organza bags with six sugared almonds in each – they were very happy.”
With over 400 sweets to choose from is Jan ever tempted while working?
“All the time, that is my problem,” she replies. “A young girl once asked if I try all the sweets, I said ‘I think it is the law.’ The fudge is our unique selling point, it is from a village in Yorkshire – the one where Matt grew up.”
So are there any not to her taste?
“The sours,” Jan answers without hesitation. “I’ve seen grown men cry in here they find them so sour – I do always explain they come with a warning.
“In fact, that reminds me of one of our oddest requests. It was a Halloween themed wedding,” she reveals. “The bride had coffin shaped favour boxes and wanted 120 of the cherry fizzy balls and 120 of the sours – both are boiled sweets and both covered in white stuff, one of each was placed in every box.”
Whether it is playing Russian roulette or simply choosing childhood favourites it is easy to see why sweets are becoming ever popular for people’s big days.
“They can show me what they want and I can get it for them,” says Jan. “I can do the whole thing or just provide the sweets.”
As well as sweet tables and favours The Sweet Jar can also create tasty bouquets of treats which are sure to be crowd pleasers if used as table centre pieces.
“I wrap them in florists’ cellophane,” she smiles, “you can pull the ribbon off and everyone can enjoy.”
To find out more about The Sweet Jar, 18 Southgate, Chichester and 11 The Arcade, Bognor Regis, visit www.the-sweet-jar.co.uk or call 01243 538538
February 9, 2014 Food and Drink