Signs reading “don’t grow up — it’s a trap” and “proceed with candy” greet customers as they stroll into a colorful pocket of Agora Market in downtown Harrisonburg. Mandy’s Candy sells an eclectic selection of sweet and sour treats, the majority of which first appeared in the 20th century like Zagnut bars, Idaho Spuds and candy cigarettes.
Amanda Seymour, owner of Mandy’s Candy, has dreamed of opening a candy shop since she was 12 years old. Although this aspiration evolved from her love of candy, Seymour received the most inspiration from her grandmother.
Seymour’s grandmother was the manager of a convenience store and brought Seymour along for trade shows that debuted the latest candies before they were put on the market. After living in Harrisonburg for over a decade, she decided to pursue her passion in June 2017. She wanted to make people just as awestruck as she’d been during those trade shows years ago.
“I hope I give that experience of a child listening to their parents or grandparents tell them about their childhood,” Seymour said. “[My shop] brings families together and gives them a common ground to bond over.”
Because of her grandmother’s influence, Seymour enjoys seeing families in her store and is delighted when she sees her customers bond with loved ones in her shop. Cate Nelson, a regular customer of Mandy’s Candy, visited the store last fall with her two sons and was instantly fond of Seymour’s personality and attentiveness to her children.
“She remembers my boys' favorite items and recently, she remembered that their grandparents were visiting,” Nelson said. “That engagement is representative of Harrisonburg as a whole and Amanda is an exemplary person to show that side of the community.”
For Nelson, there are two important reasons she and her sons keep coming back to Mandy’s Candy — Seymour’s welcoming personality and the rare collection of candies she sells. Not only does the shop offer 20th-century confections, but it also carries homemade fudge and gift baskets as well.
“We have nothing else quite like [Mandy’s Candy],” Nelson said. “I'm so glad we have a cute boutique full of goodies that I enjoy as much as my children do.”
The community of Agora Market vendors has grown since last summer when the space opened for business. While Seymour was one of the first tenants, some other businesses just moved in, such as Lineage Goods. Paul Hansbarger, the owner of Lineage, only opened his business in Agora in February, but had visited the market before.
“Mandy’s shop is one of the more unique shops within the Agora space,” Hansbarger said. “There’s hard-to-find candies and a lot of things I’ve never seen or heard of before.”
Though he moved in a little over a month ago, Hansbarger is able to see the hard work that goes into Seymour’s shop. Often bringing his family to her store, Hansbarger enjoys Seymour’s warm disposition as well as her candy.
“I think she definitely adds color and energy to the space,” Hansbarger said. “I think her personality is a great addition to Agora.”
The customer connections Seymour has built after opening less than a year ago represents the close-knit community of Harrisonburg. Having grown up in the small town of Shenandoah, Seymour is accustomed to forming relationships with customers and business owners alike. By using ingredients from Broad Porch Coffee — located only 50 feet from her shop in the market — and other local stores, Seymour bakes different kinds of fudge and other treats.
Seymour’s patronage of local businesses influences her joy when she sees regular customers come to her shop. Through her quirky signs and interesting candy assortments, she hopes to provide a fun place for children to interact with one another.
“Probably at least 20 different children come in regularly,” Seymour said. “I love building up that repertoire with the kids and seeing them in this space.”
While it can be hard to follow the saying, “Don’t grow up,” Mandy’s Candy offers a colorful respite for those who want to be kids again, even if only for just a few minutes. Whether someone loves Charleston Chews, Razzles or Necco Wafers, Seymour believes there’s something for everyone.
“It’s really fun seeing other grandparents come in and show their grandkids, ‘Oh look, I used to eat these all the time,’” Seymour said. “It’s a fun experience. It makes me happy to see my customers happy.”
Contact Brooke Imperial at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.