Food

In Conversation with Keith & Jenn // Oh Sugar Candy Shop

April 14, 2021
A couple stands in front of their candy shelf.

Names: Keith Johnson & Jennifer Douglas
Shop: Oh Sugar
Address: 561 Johnson St, Victoria, BC
Instagram: @ohsugarofficial 

The exterior of Oh sugar candy shop in Victoria BC
Oh Sugar is in the heart of the Lower Johnson shopping neighbourhood.

What is Oh Sugar? 

We are a boutique style candy store specializing in sweets and chocolates from around the world.

Can you tell us about your background? 

We were born and raised in Victoria, and with a passion for business, we decided to begin a new journey a few years ago.

Have you always wanted to run a shop? How did your buying Oh Sugar come about?

Yes, purchasing a family-owned business is something we had been discussing for a few years. Oh Sugar appealed to us as everyone that comes in is excited about the unique products that we carry as well as all of the nostalgic items they find from when they were a kid themselves. It’s also fun to source new products for the store — who doesn’t like shopping for candy!

Candy on a shelf in a candy store.
Hard-to-find candies like French aniseed mints Les Anis de Flavigny next to the latest Oreo collab with Lady Gaga.

If you had to describe your shop to someone who hasn’t seen it, how would you describe it? 

A SWEEEET place to visit for ALL ages! You’ll find nostalgic candies from your childhood as well as tons of sweets that you’ve never seen before!

You have a large selection of “sinfully good candy and chocolates from around the world”. Can you tell us more about the products in your tagline? 

We import candy and chocolates from all over the world including Europe, Japan, UK, Germany, Finland, and of course we have a fantastic selection of Danish licorice. As well, we also carry some locally-sourced products like fudge, various brittles, maple-bacon pecans, lollipops and Xylitol candy.

A wall of licorice in a candy shop.
A large selection of bulk Danish licorice lines the shelves.

Have you made any changes in the products you carry? Any product that you are excited about? 

We are always looking for new and exciting products! Some recent additions include the expansion of our Japanese selection and nostalgic candy. We have a fantastic brand of vegan candy from Katja that are 100% vegetarian and are made with no artificial flavours or colouring — these have turned out to be some of our best-selling fruit gummies and licorice items! We also try to source items that customers are looking for, like novelty giant candy items including “The World’s Largest” gummy worm, gummy bear, candy sushi, pizza, burger, hot dog, doughnut, noodles and spicy gummy peppers. We also carry British Bon Bons, Mega Sours, Cuban Lunch, Jelly Belly, Lil’ Nitro Gummy Bear and Toe of Satan lollipop (9 million Scoville units, the hottest candy on the planet!).

Candy from around the world.

What or who inspires you? 

Our inspiration comes from all our candy favorites from childhood. We are delighted when our customers get excited about something cool that we carry in the shop or when they say they haven’t seen something since they were a kid!

Bottles of Pop Shoppe flavours in a fridge.
Which Pop Shoppe flavour was your favourite growing up?

How do you evaluate what is working in the shop and what isn’t? What guides you in your choices? 

Customer feedback and requests are always a great way for us to evaluate our selection and thus guides us in choosing certain products. We are always on the hunt for local products to highlight and collaborate with.

What are some of the hardest lessons you’ve had starting your business? How have you overcome them? 

The toughest part has been balancing work and family life and aligning our business with the right support network.

A shop owner behind the counter in her store.
Jenn behind the front counter.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to open up a business? 

It’s extremely hard work with many hours outside of normal operating hours so be sure you have a strong support system in place and good foundation as everyone needs time off.

As we navigate our new reality, what advice would you give to your fellow business owners on what keeps you moving forward? Any helpful tips? 

Another shop owner we know said it perfectly: “Show up” — and by that, open the doors and really be involved and listen to your customers.

Candy sticks in a jar in a candy store.
Old-fashioned candy sticks are always popular.

Have you made any hard decisions to get you through this difficult time? Can you share some of those decisions? 

So many hard decisions, from closing the business, laying off our staff, navigating a new business environment, and looking at different ways to keep the store afloat like offering local deliveries to all of our fabulous customers who have been supporting us through the pandemic.

Anything else you would like to share? 

Victoria is an amazing city and the community is very supportive of local businesses! We are thankful everyday to be able to open our doors and for all the local support that we’ve received during these unique and challenging times.

The logo on a shop window.
Oh Sugar’s fun retro logo faces out towards the heritage buildings on Johnson St.

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