Today we’d like to introduce you to Robin Helfand.
Robin grew up hearing tales of the old-fashioned soda fountain and candy shop founded in the 1930’s by her grandparents in NYC. As a child in the 1960’s, she spent many an afternoon with her nanna and poppa tasting treats and meeting shop owners stocking barrels and towers of sweets in the Candy Emporiums on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
During these visits, Robin learned valuable lessons from her poppa about running a business. Her grandparents emphasized that visitors want to feel good about the places where they shop.
The lessons stayed with her. After a Corporate Marketing career, Robin decided to launch her own Candy Emporium in 2008 in Great Barrington, amidst the rolling hills of the Massachusetts Berkshires- an easy and scenic day trip west of Boston. From the warm “Team Robin” welcome as you enter to the complimentary samples and the smile on her signature “round tuits” given with each purchase, a trip to Robin’s Candy Shop is a memorable and happy experience.
Her mix of eclectic, hard-to-find treats, classics and classics-in-the-making have garnered National attention.
Robin has appeared with the “Barefoot Contessa” on the Food Network, Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel, and Ted Reinstein on Chronicle TV Magazine. Yankee magazine awarded Robin’s an Editors Choice Award for the Shop’s outstanding selection of licorice, and most recently, Robin has partnered with American Express as a Brand Ambassador for their Small Business Outreach program and Small Business Saturday initiative.
Wide-eyed first-time guests become loyal regulars, and visitors from near and far rely on the Shop’s website (robinscandy.com) to order Robin’s highly curated, creative gift baskets for friends and family celebrations throughout the year.
In addition to sweets and treats and smiles, you will leave with a toothbrush… ( to help keep that “sweet tooth” healthy!) Robin’s poppa would be proud!
Has it been a smooth road?
Robin began her business with a modest expectation of providing treats to the local community and seasonal tourists — as the Shop achieved recognition beyond the Berkshires she scrambled to build a team capable of sharing her passion, enthusiasm, and commitment to outstanding customer service.
Fortunately, the Shop is conveniently situated near a number of New England’s finest Schools. Robin developed a youth mentoring program to develop a Team dedicated to sharing her energy and vision… and able to learn the lessons she herself learned about the value of providing each guest with a positive experience… and a little something sweet!
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Robin’s Candy Shop story. Tell us more about the business.
Is that a 9-foot long gummy snake in the glass case near Robin’s front door? And hold on! The next case features 11-pound bars of Belgian chocolate!
… But don’t stop now, wander down the aisle to the “Licorice bar” featuring over 75 varieties of licorice from around the world. Across from the licorice is Robin’s Famous “BrainFreeze Bar” Local soft serve Ice cream and Yogurt custom whipped for each visitor! Popular combinations include “The NPR” (named after the combo was featured on NPR’s Food Friday segment)… Lebanese Halvah whipped with Turkish Pistachio and drizzled with Persian Rose essence. The “Bernie” has a loyal following as well; Brooklyn roast coffee whipped with Vermont Maple Syrup. The combinations are, literally, infinite.
Tucked into every corner, floor to ceiling, are bins of classic toys from Robin’s collection of “unplugged” fun; slinky’s, Gumby, barrel-o-monkeys, silly putty and “Woolly Willy to name a few.
It is impossible not to laugh out loud as you come upon Robin’s wall of witty bumper stickers and buttons. You will be tempted to spend an afternoon perusing her collection but leave time to explore the shelves of imported chocolate bars from Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East.
Finally, give in and grab a basket to fill with your own mix of treats from the hundreds of candies you’ll remember from childhood; wax lips, pixie stix and nik’l’nips, Sky Bars, Necco wafers, squirrel nuts, walnettos, Boston Baked Beans and Toxic Waste, Warheads and Sour Straws plus classic rainbow lolli’s for the younger crowd.
Leave time to browse every nook and cranny before Team Robin happily packs your treats into earth-friendly bags and boxes– handed over with a friendly smile, perhaps a sample of Jelly Belly’s and, of course, a toothbrush!
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Robin’s Candy is very much a family business across four generations!
The original inspiration to open a sweet shop came from Robin’s maternal grandparents. Her sales acumen and ability to fix anything from a loose shelf to the giant rotating disco ball on the ceiling– came from her paternal grandparents.
Robin’s mom and dad are frequent visitors and an invaluable source of advice on her licorice selections. Her parents also weigh in on the taste trends popular among their generation.
Allye, Jesse, and Drew, Robin’s three grown children (and still trusty taste testers) have each contributed from their own fields of expertise.
Drew, a product manager at Tinder in L.A. is the “tech guru”- having designed the Shop’s e-commerce site, computer network, sound system and inventory management software.
Jesse, an Economic Analyst specializing in Energy Policy is based in Paris, France, Jesse keeps the Shop “green,” sourcing eco-friendly packaging, energy efficient lighting solutions and, in her spare time, sending samples of the newest and finest in European Sweets.
Allye and her fiance, Kevin, Financial Analysts based in Manhattan, NY provide the creative inspiration that defines the Shop’s unique look and feel. Together with Boston Based Pinkergreen Graphics and Vermont based Creative Labels, Allye has helped create the graphics and branding for the packaging and signage. Kevin jumps in to help sell, stock and organize when the family descends en masse to help Robin during the Shop’s peak periods.
Of course, as any Business Owner knows, a transition plan is critical. Robin’s includes the prospect of one day adding the fifth generation of grandchildren to help the business as it keeps pace with retail trends, grows it’s online presence and maintains it’s status as a “must-see” destination in the Berkshires!
In addition to unwavering family support, Robin has continued to learn and grow through her strong partnership with the Small Business Administration, her local banker, The Chamber of Commerce and importantly, her team of dedicated sales associates and interns.
- Address: 288 Main Street
Great barrington, MA 01230
- Website: robinscandy.com
- Phone: 413-528-8477
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Scott Barrow, Brian Difeo