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Don’t forget candy during holiday shopping

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ARLEE – Jars of candy with names like Candy Chalk, Salty Dog Treats and Chocolate Rocks line the shelves and counters in a small building called the Hummingbird, which is the perfect place to get a candy stash for the holidays. Shop owner Tony Hoyt gives customers coming in the door what he calls the 15-second candy tour.

“Black licorice is here,” he said pointing towards a counter with the majority of the black licorice. There are 70 kinds of black licorice throughout the store in varying flavors and shapes including itty-bitty sugar free black licorice bears. Customer Lori McCarthy agreed with Hoyt that the best way to eat the black licorice pinwheels was to unwind them.

“Black licorice is my favorite,” Hoyt said.

Hoyt pointed to where the fruit licorice in pineapple yellow could be seen beside the jar of green apple licorice along with the jars of gummies like cola bottles, exotic frogs, dinosaurs, white grapefruit slices, piglets and not-flathead-cherries. The assorted chocolates, including bear paws with nut shaped claws, were under the glass counter.

“It’s all self-service except for the chocolate,” he said. “Bags are here and the scoops. Take one of something or a hundred. I’m here to help if you need anything.”

The candy is sold by weight and most of it comes from Europe.

“Self service has been a lifesaver,” he said. “People really like being able to look around and pick out what they want.”

Local Tim Wheeler picked out two kinds of licorice. 

“I come in to get my sugar fix,” he said. “I’m a diehard fruit licorice fan.”

In 1988, Hoyt opened the candy shop.

“This is the oldest continuously owned business in Arlee,” he said. 

Children inspired him to open the business.

“I was putting a roof on what was then a grocery store and I saw all these kids continuously coming out of a store with candy,” he said. “They put the idea for a candy store in my mind, although they are not my big customers. I get parents with kids and tourists.” 

Last year winter was tough on business. 

“We had our worst winter for business last winter, but we had the best summer this year and the best fall ever. The economy is getting better. I’d like to see what it would look like if we didn’t have the highway dividing town. That has been really hard on business for everyone.”

Hoyt thinks his business has lasted so long due to signs and unique products. 

“We have a sign that says 70 kinds of black licorice. People see that sign and it’s so crazy to them that they want to stop just to see if it’s true,” he said.

Other items in the store include cards, huckleberry products, knitted hats, insect jewelry and beadwork —  and windmills, which can be seen spinning in front of the shop.

“Eighty percent of my business comes from candy, but the store would look empty if we didn’t have some other stuff, plus I like to have things for last minute birthdays.” 

Advice also attracts people to the shop.

“I tell people what there is to see and give them ideas about places they can go to,” he said. “Get to Glacier early or late to beat the crowds, and the best doughnuts in Montana are at the Windmill in Ravalli.” 

The only problem people have with filling their bags with candy is remembering what they put in them. People have sent pictures of candy they got from the store, asking what a specific piece was so they can get more.

The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. most days. 


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