CEDAR RAPIDS — Bins of brightly colored candy line the walls at Scandy Sweets. Piles of pink raspberry-flavored sour skulls, vivid yellow banana caramels, deep blue and red berry-flavored gummies and bronze caramel twists tempt shoppers. Other bins hold wrapped treats, like hazelnut-filled chocolates in shiny pink twists or gingerbread toffee bites, while full sized bars of Icelandic chocolate with sea salt and Swiss Alpine milk chocolate Milka bars sit next to them.
This isn’t Willy Wonka’s factory but Scandy Sweets, where owners Barry and Liz Rickard peddle candy from Sweden and beyond, focused on Northern European treats.
The couple used to live in Sweden, and when they moved back to their home state of Iowa they decided to bring a hint of Scandinavia with them, in the form of peppermint licorice chalk, chewy Swedish fish and toffees flavored to taste like glögg — aka mulled wine.
They also want to offer a less-processed alternative to American candy — the Scandinavian candy they sell is free of high fructose corn syrup and uses less chemicals. Many of their customers are allergic to corn or some artificial dyes, making much mainstream American candy off-limits.
“That’s one of the reasons why we do this — I don’t let our kids have American candy,” Barry said.
Most of their candy is also certified halal, a certification that means it is permissible under Islamic law. Some gelatin, used in many candies, is not halal.
“I like to eat candy, and I eat a lot of candy, but I haven’t eaten American candy since 2006,” Barry said. “I’ve always had a sweet tooth.”
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They started the shop with just Swedish candy but have since expanded to other countries, carrying goods from Finland, Norway, Germany, Iceland, Belgium, Holland, Poland, Ireland and England. In the future, Barry would like to add Southern European items such as Italian and French chocolate.
“There are a lot of differences between the countries,” he said.
When customers come into the shop for the first time, Barry is likely to ply them with samples, offering sweet and sour choices and explaining the different sheen on chocolate not processed to a high shine.
“I like talking to customers and helping them. I like when they’re happy and when they find something they really like,” he said. “There are so many things that are so good.”
They have around 115 kinds of candy in their catalog. Customers can mix and match, filling bags sold by weight. That’s a Swedish tradition, Barry said.
“There used to be ‘Saturday candy,’ where kids would go to the grocery store and get a bag of candy,” he said.
Both the Rickards are Army veterans. He was stationed in Germany for three years before living in Sweden for a total of 11 years after marrying a Swedish woman. They divorced and he later married Liz. The couple spent time in Iowa and Sweden before settling in Cedar Rapids.
He missed Swedish potato chips and she missed Mallorca mix, a Swedish gummy candy in multiple flavors.
“Nobody else imports it,” Barry said.
At first, they fed their cravings by ordering off Amazon, but then had the idea to open their own store. They figured, if they were looking for these products, others might be, as well. They opened their small storefront on the southwest side in fall 2017.
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The majority of their business is online, Barry said — they have shipped candy as far as Brazil and Kuwait. Still, both he and Liz said they enjoy in-person interactions the most.
“We like when people try something new and we can introduce them to something different they can’t get anywhere else,” Liz said.
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If you go
• What: Scandy Sweets
• Where: 3620 Edgewood Road SW, Suite 800, Cedar Rapids
• Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday
• Details: (319) 929-8918, scandysweets.com