Robin and Carl Mennie own River Street Sweets, which features handmade pralines, rice krispie treats, loggerheads and chocolate covered pretzels, in Asbury Park.
River Street Sweets-Savannah’s Candy Kitchen opened in July 2020 on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park. Smack in the middle of a pandemic.
The amazing shop on Cookman Avenue is filled with fresh handmade pralines, rice krispie treats, loggerheads, chocolate covered pretzels, giant peanut butter cups, fresh dipped caramel apples – basically any confection you could ever want.
It’s a sweet story but certainly not an overnight success. It took over three years for owners Robin and Carl Mennie to get the store opened. And this new franchise business is a leap for both of them.
Robin worked for 20 plus years as a nurse practitioner with a specialty in cardiology. Carl was – and still is – a pilot with American Airlines working mostly on international flights. The business is really a family affair with all four of their children helping in the operation.
The idea for a candy business first emerged in 2017. Carl was looking to invest his 401-K savings. And both Carl and Robin were looking to do something new.
“At the time, our daughter Kristen was dating a gentleman and his family had a candy store business in Savannah,” according to Carl.
He and his daughter traveled to Savannah to meet the Strickland Family, owners of River Street Sweets-Savannah’s Candy Kitchen.
“We brought some candy home and Robin loved it,” he said. “And so, we started going through the process of the research.”
Over the next two and a half years, the Mennies hit dozens of barriers – negotiating the franchise agreement, finding the right location and negotiating the lease, designing the store and working with the city of Asbury Park to get all the necessary approvals and inspections. And as they were getting closer to opening their own store, Robin went for four weeks of training at the original River Street Sweets in Savannah.
“I was trained under some of the best they had,” she said. “They would teach me the art of making caramel or the art of scooping out the praline. I learned so much just listening to the workers that have been with that company for so long.”
The store opened on July 2 right in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. But according to Carl, business has been surprisingly strong in the past four months.
“What the city did on Cookman, by closing the street, by allowing the restaurants to go outdoor dining, embraced the community’s desire to move forward,” he said.
As with any business, the opening week was challenging. But Robin found inspiration in the words of a small visitor. “It was three days after we were open. And I was literally exhausted. And a little girl walked through and she said, ‘This is heaven.’ And I said ‘You have no idea what those words mean to me after three years of trying to get this store open.”
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