Sweet memories at the Sugar Shack
At 8:30 a.m. every morning, Tracy Ford steps through the door at 203 6th Avenue in Alexandria.
Walking past the hot pink colored walls, glass barrels of colorful candy and the toffee table, she heads for the kitchen and looks at the order list that extends to October.
Taking out flour, sugar, salt and baking soda from the cupboards, Ford marvels at how this simple act of making cookies resulted in her opening her candy store in Alexandria - The Sugar Shack.
Only a few months before, Ford was a stay-at-home mom with three kids. And like any stay-at-home mom, when her son's school had a bake sale, she baked. But instead of baking the normal chocolate chip cookies or lemon bars, she wanted to do something different: cookie bouquets.
"I thought they would be fun and different and something easy for kids to eat," she explained.
These bouquets are decorated cookies on sticks stuck in pots with candy fillers. The pot and cookies are decorated to depict an event or theme, like graduation or the Wizard of Oz.
The bouquets became wildly popular with her friends and when she started posting the pictures on Facebook, they exploded.
"It was then I realized that in the 16 years I have lived in Alexandria, there hasn't been a candy store. My cookie bouquets were such a hit that I decided to take a chance," she said.
Ford's family played a key role in helping her start her shop.
"My brother-in-law and husband made the shelves, my sister took the photographs on the walls and they all help me with the front counter and restocking the shelves," Ford said. "I honestly don't know what I would do without them."
One of the more memorable parts in starting the store was buying the candy.
Huddled around a computer screen filled with thousands of different kinds of candies, the family members picked out whatever made their mouth water.
"We honestly just clicked on whatever looked good," Ford recalled with a giddy, childlike smile. "My sister has always loved candy, so when the boxes started coming, it was like Christmas every day for her."
With the shelves stocked and the walls painted, Ford opened the Sugar Shack on April 6.
"It was scary opening a new business, but so far it has been going really well," she said.
And for good reason.
Stocked full of mouth-watering cookies that melt in your mouth made fresh every morning and hundreds of different candies, from irresistible chocolate morsels to sour fruity pieces, the Sugar Shack brings sweet memories to anyone's mind.
It reminds Rebecca Wilkinson of Alexandria of when she was younger and visited the local candy store where she would pick out her favorite pieces of candy for a coin or two from the tons in barrels and the bins that lined the walls.
"This brings back so many memories of that!" Wilkinson exclaimed as she deliberated which candy to choose to fill her bag at the Super Shack recently.
"People walk in and are like, 'I remember this from my childhood!' Seeing their faces and watching them remember is the fun part," Ford said.
Though the hundreds of different candies are a focal part of the store, it is her cookie bouquets that are still one of the most sought after items in her store.
Since she opened the store, she creates about 10 cookie bouquets a week and generally needs three days' notice of the order so the cookies are fresh.
The bouquets start at $18 for three cookies and go up to as many as 12 cookies for $40.
Ford has five different kinds of cookies for sale each day ranging from chocolate chip to whimsically decorated eggs, bacon and pancake cookies. She has also started dabbling in cupcakes.
And one of the most amazing parts is that Ford has no professional training with decorating, aside from coloring when she was younger.
"The only thing that scares me about decorating is that I don't want to ruin someone's special day. But my philosophy has become that it is just a cookie. You are going to eat it no matter what. Plus, with cookies, if you screw up you just scrape it off and do it over again," she said.
No matter the decoration, Ford's cookies melt in your mouth with each gooey bite. Added with the assortment of candy, the Sugar Shack is a sugar haven for people of any age.
"I feel like a kid in a candy store!" Wilkinson said, her eyes sparkling.
Tracy's husband, Chris, handed Wilkinson a large bag of gummy worms and said with a smile, "Well, that is exactly what we want you to feel like."