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Take a step back in time at new iCandy store

Gresham friends open candy shop in downtown
by: Jim Clark Janelle Mikula, left, and Debbie Eggers are the owners of iCandy, a new candy store in downtown Gresham.

First there was the iPhone. Then, the iPad. Now, iCandy.

'Originally, we intended to use a gumball machine for the 'i,'' said Debbie Eggers, co-owner of the new sweet shop on Main Avenue in downtown Gresham, 'but we worried it wouldn't be obvious with the name. We were brainstorming over names and somebody blurted out 'iCandy.' Since it's the era of 'I' everything, it just worked. But it was one of our husbands who said the name, so we give them all the credit.'

iCandy is like a step back in time, when a fist full of change meant a trip to the candy store. It's hard to choose between old-school sweets like Atomic Fireballs, sugared orange slices and Jujubes, a root beer float or warm caramel corn made while you watch. An ice cream cone? Chocolate? iCandy is just as the name implies - a total treat for the senses.

Brainchild of Eggers, 36, and business partner Janelle Mikula, 35, iCandy takes its inspiration from Goody's, a similar shop in Sunriver, which is in Central Oregon near Bend. The pair, who have been best friends for five years, discovered Goody's while both families vacationed at Sunriver a few years ago.

'(Goodies) is the same type of place like (iCandy),' said Mikula, a longtime Gresham resident. 'That's the only place the kids ever want to go. You see all those people smiling. It's a fun place and there was nothing like that here.'

A lifelong Gresham resident, Eggers had always wanted to own a business. In high school, she worked behind the soda fountain at the former Rexall Drug Store in Gresham and later, while attending college, at Joe Brown's Caramel Corn in Northeast Portland.

Eggers relayed her fond memories of the Rexall soda fountain and Joe Brown's to Mikula and both agreed a candy store would be an asset to the ambiance of the downtown area. They applied for the city of Gresham's permit incentive program, where permit fees are waived for new businesses, and credit the program with their ability to open the shop.

'We wouldn't be here without the incentives,' Eggers said. 'Not with everything else. It's financially risky to open a small business right now, so having the fees waived made it possible for us to move ahead with our dream.'

iCandy opened quietly at 312 N. Main Ave., on Friday, July 29. But that first night was hardly a 'dream.'

'We wanted to do a test run on a day before the Farmers' Market,' Eggers explained. 'We were terrified because we didn't know what we were doing! There were so many things we didn't know. The chocolate was melting, the temperature on the ice cream was either too cold or too hot. We had some bumps that first night, and we were tripping all over each other. But we rearranged a few things, and it's going well now.'

The pair took their cue for iCandy's inventory from their children and customer feedback. Daily, they make Cheese Corn, Caramel Corn and Candied Applies, using a copper kettle to hand-melt the caramel. But the cotton candy proved to be yet another part of the learning curve for Eggers.

'I thought I knew what I was doing because I used to make it at Joe Brown's,' she said, laughing. 'I was getting carpel tunnel twirling it around on a stick. The vendor came in and showed me how to just reach in a grab it and put it in the bag. I couldn't believe I didn't think of doing it that way myself.'

iCandy is a family operation, as well. Eggers' father-in-law has become a fixture at the Gresham Farmers' Market on Saturday, in a pink shirt and hat, handing out pink balloons with the store's signature logo. Both women work day jobs - Eggers is a medical assistant for Kaiser Permanente and Mikula is a chiropractic assistant - leaving Eggers' parents to man the store during the day hours.

'Our husbands have really stepped up, too,' Mikula said. 'We're going from one job to another, so they're doing things they don't normally do. They've been really supportive.'

Eggers and Mikula also have eyes on iCandy's future. They currently have a website under development, which will include online ordering, and they offer special discounts to fans of their Facebook page, Gresham iCandy. Eventually, they would like to expand the store's footprint to allow for more seating and additional products.

The community's response to iCandy has been amazing, they said, noting it's been a continuous stream of foot traffic since the shop opened. And being part of the downtown scene is special as well. Friendship and business, it seems, is a pretty sweet deal.

'I always wanted to open a business but never considered it until Janelle came along,' Eggers said. 'I could never do this alone. We've exercised together, carpool kids, our families vacation together and we've always talked non-stop. I can't remember what we talked about before though. Now, it's all about iCandy.'

iCandy

What: Classic old-school candy, Umpqua ice cream, homemade popcorn, caramel corn and cheddar corn, candied apples, Candy Basket chocolates and gift items.

Where: 312 N. Main Ave., Gresham

CALL: 503-912-3263

WEB: icandygresham.com

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday