Two old friends from Belleville East High School are teaming up to open Crafty Sugar Co., a new place to get candy, ice cream and craft soda at 104 E. Main St. in downtown Belleville.
Scott Schmelzel, who owns Big Daddy’s 618 bar and restaurant at 313 E. Main St., will partner with Mike Thouvenot, who has experience in the restaurant and craft beer industries.
They’ve been friends since they were on the wrestling team in high school.
And now they have a business plan for selling sweets. Schmelzel said he has wanted to open a candy store in downtown Belleville for several years, and Thouvenot wanted to start his own business since he recently returned to Belleville after living in the Seattle area for more than 20 years.
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“It’s going to be a very cute addition to the downtown shopping district,” Schmelzel said. “It will be very welcoming. Downtown Belleville is a prime candidate for a candy shop that sells ice cream and craft sodas.”
Crafty Sugar Co. is expected to open by March 1 but possibly earlier to meet the rush for Valentine’s Day.
There’s so many root beers out there. We’ll probably have at least a half dozen root beers.
Mike Thouvenot of the Crafty Sugar Co.
Various lines of candy, ice cream and craft sodas will be available but they have not yet selected the brands that will be sold.
“There’s so many root beers out there,” Thouvenot said. “We’ll probably have at least a half dozen root beers.”
And they envision an “old school” root beer float as their signature item.
Thouvenot, who will be the manager of the Crafty Sugar Co., looks forward to the throngs of people who attend downtown festivals throughout the year. And Schmelzel said the shop’s location across from the Lincoln Theatre near the intersection of High and Main streets makes it accessible to downtown visitors.
Thouvenot said interest in craft sodas has grown across the country and he thinks it’s the right time to open a craft soda shop in Belleville.
Indeed, USA Today reported last spring that craft soda production increased 5 percent in 2016 compared to the previous year and that wholesale sales totaled $541 million in 2016, up from $427.7 million in 2011.
This is the not the first time 104 E. Main St. was home to a business targeting customers with a sweet tooth.
Starting in 1869, members of the Goelitz family ran a confectionery at various sites in Belleville, including 104 E. Main St. in the late 1890s, according to Bob Brunkow, historian for the Belleville Historical Society.
The Goelitz family moved the company to Cincinnati about 1900, and the 104 E. Main St. site was their last shop in Belleville, Brunkow said. The company eventually became the Fairfield, Calif.-based Jelly Belly Candy Co., which produces the jelly beans popularized by President Ronald Reagan.
Before and after the Goelitz family store was at 104 E. Main St., Victor Lavaux operated a confectionery at the site. He sold fruits, nuts, confections and oysters, according to one his ads.
In 2008, the Dreamy Creamy Scoops ice cream shop opened in the building and closed after about five years.
The space was most recently occupied by Suzanne’s Missing Pieces, which is relocating to 1407 W. Main St. in Belleville.
Schmelzel and Thouvenot, who have not requested any tax incentives from the city, didn’t release the amount they are spending on renovations to the space they are leasing from Ronnie Phillips.
The City Council on Tuesday approved Crafty Sugar Co.’s request to install a sign and offer outdoor seating on the sidewalk along East Main Street.
“We are self-funding this, bankrolling it on our own because we believe in the product and we believe in downtown Belleville,” said Schmelzel, who not only has operated Big Daddy’s in downtown for 13 years, he also lives in a downtown loft on South High Street.