In honour of Halloween, we’re celebrating candy stores in Alberta where you’ll find unique, quirky and notable candies. We chatted with the owners on their shop’s most beloved, weirdest and underrated candies, and their own personal favourites.
Yuichi Tokunaga, owner of Candy Bear’s Lair in Jasper, moved to Canada from Japan 23 years ago. He tried a variety of different jobs, but nothing clicked until a pivotal move to Jasper 11 years ago. While working at a hotel in Jasper, Tokunaga saw Candy Bear’s Lair advertised for sale.
“My wife and daughters love chocolate, so I decided to give this a try,” Tokunaga says. “I have had the store for 10 years now, and while it was a very steep learning curve at first, it was all worth it.”
Nestled in downtown Jasper, the storefront greets you with a smiling, six-foot tall, stuffed grizzly bear perched on a log by the door. The shop stocks chocolate treats, as well as ice cream, frozen yogurt and toys.
“We are the only place in town that makes fudge from scratch, and if you’re lucky, you can see one of our fudge or candy makers in action,” Yokunaga says.
Best-sellers include the bear paws (vanilla caramel and cashews dipped in white, milk or dark chocolate) and peanut butter cups, both made in-house. Tokunaga’s favourite is the buffalo chunk, a chocolate coconut chew dipped in milk chocolate.
He says that double dark fudge is sometimes neglected by customers: “People are usually reluctant to try it, worried it might be bitter because of the double chocolate, but they like it once they try it.”
611 Patricia Street, Jasper, candybear.ca
Freak Lunchbox opened in Calgary in 2012. Manager Daniel Shouldice previously worked at the company’s flagship store in Halifax, and helped open other locations. The family-run business has six shops across Canada.
The Calgary location is an explosion of colour, filled with bulk bins, British imports, and zany pop culture memorabilia (with several old-school lunchboxes, of course).
“No candy store is boring, but we’re not the average candy store,” Shouldice says. “We’re all about the experience – high energy, loud music, crazy colours – it’s about fun in the most in-your-face way possible.”
Shouldice says bulk candy is the best seller, with customers gravitating towards peach penguins, sour bubble gum bottles, and dino-sour candies, although there’s always new candy in weird flavours to try, like pickle-juice soda.
He prefers assorted sours from the bulk section, and recommends trying one of the underappreciated chocolate bars: “Boost is one of my all-time favourite chocolate bars. It’s a British bar with caramel, cookies and chocolate nougat wrapped in chocolate. A lot of people just don’t know what it is, and will skip over it and go for something else. That’s my number one recommendation to everyone looking for a bar because it’s so good.”
614 17 Avenue SW A, Calgary, freaklunchbox.com/calgary-1
James Dobbin, owner of Gummi Boutique, opened the first Calgary location in 2011. Today there are two locations in Calgary, plus a new location in Granary Road, and on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton.
Gummi Boutique is recognizable by its logo of a gummi bear head, and inside each store you’ll find a diverse mix of candy and toys.
“We carry an extremely wide variety of product,” Dobbin says. “It’s always an adventure when you come into the store; there’s always something new. We have a great team of people that work at our stores that are extremely helpful and knowledgeable.”
Unusual items include cereals, insect candy, spicy gummies and a pop selection, with handpicked sodas from California, like Tahitian Treat, which can be hard to find north of the border.
Dobbin recommends Haribo gummies and says they are one of the best gummies in the world, and he harbours a lifelong love for Jelly Belly candies: “I like being able to mix them up. I’m a big candy lover myself, obviously.”
10345 82nd Avenue NW, Edmonton; 205 10 Street NW, Calgary; 1217B 9 Avenue SE, Calgary, and Granary Road – 112 Street West, Foothills No. 31, gummiboutique.ca
In 1997, Kevin Milliken noticed a small space on Main Street in Canmore had opened up for sale. He quickly bought it, dreaming of a candy shop that sells retro candy. This month, the Old Tyme Candy Shoppe is celebrating its 20th anniversary, right in time for Halloween, and now has locations in Lake Louise, Ontario and British Columbia too.
The shop specializes in imported and retro novelty candies, and also makes chocolates and fudges in-house. One of the most popular candies is Dutch licorice, which is also most liked by Milliken: “There’s such a variety. I can mix a bag and go on my travels for the day and have one.”
Milliken says the British hard sweets are often overlooked, but are worth a try for the large variety of unique flavours.
717 8 Street, Canmore and 5C Samson Mall, Lake Louise, oldetymecandyshoppe.com