Appeal-Democrat Archive Writing

It’s Live Oak’s sweet spot

July 11, 2007

Nava Palmira’s sons knew about it. Her husband knew about it. But before she took over the Penny Candy Store in Live Oak, Palmira hadn’t heard of it.

Most of the candy has gone up from the penny price since Iwana McDevitt opened the store’s doors in 1985, but Palmira, 53, still keeps a few shelves in the back corner filled with at least a dozen varieties of one-cent Tootsie Rolls.

“There’s not a lot, but there’s still some left,” Palmira said.

Before buying the store, she stayed at home and made her money doing clothing alterations. Her two sons were off to college, leaving her with more free time. Her husband pointed to a store for sale that she hadn’t heard of, despite living in the area her entire life. Looking back, she’s shocked she didn’t see it earlier.

She bought the store four years ago from the Lopez family.

While the candy may not all cost a penny anymore, the variety and volume, in what looks like a very small building from the road, more than makes up for it. All of the candy inside makes kids coming to the store for the first time feel like they have stepped into the world of Willy Wonka, Palmira said.

She remembers one boy who was particularly blown away when he walked in.

“You could tell he was overwhelmed by all the candy,” she said. “He looked at me and asked me, ‘Can you please give me a hug?’ ”

Tanner Perrin, 9, used to live in Live Oak and loved going to the Penny Candy Store. Now that he’s visiting from Rochester, Ind., he’s been stopping by the store regularly this summer.

“It’s really cool,” he said.

The bigger kids who want to relive part of their childhood through a sugary snack are just as excited as the younger ones.

Last year a man came into the store looking for Flicks. According to the Flicks Candy Company Web site, the chocolate wafers had been discontinued in 1989 when the machinery that made them was damaged while it was being moved around and they weren’t made again until a few years ago. The man who had been searching for them finally found what he was looking for in Palmira’s store.

“He was so excited. He said, “Oh, I’ve been looking for these forever,” Palmira said.

Another rare candy she offers is a wintergreen lozenge, also known as a pink mint. She originally stocked them in the usual two-for $1 bags that stores typically have, but found her racks would be full one minute and empty the next. Now she buys them buy the case and bags them behind the counter to keep up with the demand.

“Everyone wants one in their town,” Palmira said, “but then nobody would come here and I would go out of business.”

With kids out of school, summer is the busiest time for Palmira. Some of the chocolates she offers during the rest of the year, such as turtles, can’t be sold now because they would melt during shipping. One company ships chocolate espresso beans in an ice chest to make sure she can keep them stocked.

To take the place of the melting chocolate, the store has a window for people to buy flavored shaved ice for under $1. Julia Hyatt, 15, comes to the store almost every day for either some shaved ice or some candy.

“It’s really small and cute,” Hyatt said.

Even though she owns a candy store, Palmira doesn’t eat much candy. She loved M&M’s when she was a kid, but has found some joy in Bit-O-Honey bars.

“I didn’t know about them until we got this place,” she said.

Even with the miles she says she’s walked every day for the past four years between helping customers and stocking shelves, Palmira still looks forward to coming to work every day.

“It doesn’t feel like we’re working because it’s fun,” she said.