Sparkles and the Chef are two amazing souls that came together. The Chef is Michael Allamon with a background that is definitely a coat of many colors. Pastry and operations are his forte. Sparkles is Jason Allamon with a background in hospitality, weddings, and décor. The two came together and merged their experiences into one! The two were married prior to the pandemic, you should have seen what they did for their wedding. They both took a local Freshii franchise over at the beginning of the pandemic to try to save it from closure. They knew that they could make a difference in people’s lives. We wanted to provide jobs for the community in a safe environment. When the shutdown happened, and they were home bound. The two felt that they could retool Freshii which was a sit-down fast casual dine in restaurant into a takeout and delivery model without any construction while providing healthy food and jobs in our community when so many restaurants were closed.
How has it been to open a retail restaurant in the middle of a pandemic?
Besides working 12-15 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 15 months while exhausting, we love what we do. It was business as usual, providing high quality food quickly and the lowest possible price.
What challenges have you faced?
The most challenging issue was in the beginning because so many restaurants were closed there was a glut of perishables and we were receiving vegetables already at the end of its shelf life. We overcame that by cutting what we purchased from the national supply chain and instead we turned to local farmers and farmer markets for 70% of our fresh vegetable needs. This relationship became well served because 7 months into it we saw prices rising 8% weekly with national carriers as more restaurants started coming online.
What did you notice in the supply chain?
Late trucks, missing items, out of stock; the supply chain broke when we shut down. Over a year ago we made the risky decision to purchase a full year supply of all to go packaging. This was the best decision we made all year as those same supplies rose so much that the price almost doubled in a year, and that’s if you can find them. For example, we launched 24oz Smoothies in early summer and we are still waiting on 24oz cups. Our response was to give two 12oz cups. Cost has in general gone up 80% this year with no relief in sight we predict for at least another 6-12 months cost to rise up to 125%.
What is your assessment of the situation for independent restaurants?
While 30% of restaurants that closed early in the pandemic are never to reopen, We see another wave of closures in the next 6 months due to the skyrocketing cost and lack of labor forcing many more to close their doors. We have been in this industry for a combined total of more than 50 years. Our philosophy has always been to stay on top of trends and research early and be prepared to pivot your business model on a moment’s notice. Always, always, always have a backup plan A and a Plan B, C, and D. You never know when something catastrophic might happen – like a worldwide pandemic. CaramelCandyShop.com was born as the direct result of the pandemic.
Why a Caramel Candy company?
We have been working on an online candy company business plan for about 5 years with no time to perform market analysis much less time start a company. The shutdown provided us the time to sit home and think. We became bored quickly and Sparkles and I were sitting outside one day talking to one of our Navy nurse friends; I just had made a batch of caramel to send to my husband’s mother who is a nurse. Our Navy nurse neighbor mentioned “Nurses Day”. So, we made a batch and packaged it in simple parchment paper like grandmother did back in the day. Once the nurses placed a picture on the internet our phone started ringing off the hook from our friends and family asking if we would send them some. Thus, a business was born. In a matter of days, we had gone thru 200 lbs. of organic sugar. We then moved onto packaging and shipping. This is Sparkle’s creative domain. We were determined to only utilize the United States Postal Service so that we could control shipping cost and provide free shipping. The packaging needed to be economical, simple, provide proper air tightness for freshness and handle shipping.
How did you come up with the concept?
I am Swiss trained Pastry Chef and Candy maker; this has been my passion for as long as I can remember. We wanted to provide a high-quality organic product that is preservative free, requires minimum skilled labor and that has packaging that is simple and does not have waste. We use only recycled plastic boxes and minimal cardboard for shipping.
What makes you different
First, freshness we buy only certified vanilla beans and make our own vanilla extract a process that takes about 9 months. I have been making my own extract for over 30 years the longer you process it the more you developed the true deep vanilla flavor. Our ingredients are all sourced certified organic. We make our caramel in small batches cooked to order. The shipping to our customers occurs within 48 hours of making it. It takes a full 24 hours for our soft chewy caramel to set properly, so by the time it arrives to our customers it’s perfect for cutting into portions and has a shelf life of approximately 30 days, if kept properly wrapped and stored in an airtight container. Our caramel is not to be refrigerated or frozen and is shelf stable. We do not use high fructose corn syrup or any other preservatives. We ship the fresh caramel wrapped in a 16oz blocks (16 portions). Then the fun part: You can cut one portion, eat it, wrap it up for later, or cut the entire block fully and wrap the pieces with the provided parchment paper and give away as gifts or to complete a gift basket project. Great fun for families or friends sitting around the table together to do. The reward that we receive is bringing our passion into the homes of families during the holidays. The gathering of friends, the reuniting of loved ones, and our golden gifts bringing everyone together as a community once again.
The online Caramel Candy Shop feels like “home for the holidays” and beyond. By creating a premium product, the reward is an experience that will produce more employment opportunities here in the community. The gift of giving is the most amazing feeling. Seeing the smile and happy joy on a loved one’s face, while they open their gift, is words beyond explaining. Giving is more than receiving. Love is Love! The true meaning of the Holidays is being together and enjoying each other’s company. Sparkles and the Chef love making gifts, giving gifts, and the enjoyment of gifts. Family is a strong connection, true love, and support. Sparkles and The Chef wish each and every one you and your families a fabulous Holiday Season.
“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe”. (Anatole France 1844-1924) By going online Sparkle’s and The Chef can reach more homes in more communities across America with their Golden Goodness made in USA with love.