In the bustling center of Great Barrington lies a delightful shop that attracts candy lovers from near and far: Robin’s Candy. A sweet spot staple of the Berkshires since 2007, Robin’s Candy offers patrons with a global array of flavors that are sure to satisfy any sweet tooth that walks through the door. Talking to Robin Helfand, the owner and namesake of the store, it’s clear that her business is more than just a pitstop for a quick treat. A trip to Robin’s Candy is an experience that can transport tasters to another part of the world, resurrect nostalgic flavors from childhood, and bridge generations with the sharing of their favorite candies. It is a place where joy is at the center, built on a strong family legacy and roots in the Great Barrington community.
In many ways, being an entrepreneur and running a candy store is in Robin’s blood. Her grandparents owned a soda fountain and candy shop in New York City in the 1930s. However, the artistry of designing the candy goers experience is equally part of her legacy. The artistic gene flows heavily in her family, with her parents and daughter being avid painters and her other daughter being a passionate potter. For Robin, the store is a place for her inner artist to come alive.
“I started designing the store around the colors in candy. That’s when it hit me that this is my art. My pallet was going to be the sweet stuff,” says Robin.
As a 15 year resident of Great Barrington and Sheffield, Robin’s Candy has weathered some turbulent times. Robin has endured the 2008 Recession, COVID19, as well as some pivotal moments in her journey as an entrepreneur. She is a firm believer in sharing the lessons she has learned with other small business owners in the community. She regularly hosts small business webinars on entrepreneurship through One Berkshire and the Chamber of Commerce. Robin also co-founded the “Entrepreneurs Forum,” a group of over 115 area Entrepreneurs who meet monthly to share ideas and support our growing community of Entrepreneurs.
“The biggest lesson I communicate to every small business owner is to have a plan in place to overcome challenges. What do I need to do so that we’re not closing the doors? What pivot? It could be 180 degrees, a total turnaround,” says Robin.
Staying flexible and resilient has allowed Robin to adapt quickly in a constantly changing world. When COVID19 hit, she anticipated the needs of her customers and staff, while maintaining the joyful experience of shopping at Robin’s Candy.
Robin recalls navigating the pandemic saying, “For me it was ‘let’s immediately do curbside.’ As the pandemic went on and this became the ‘new normal’ we started saying let’s give KN95s at our cost so we are keeping our guests and staff safe.”
With growing supply chain issues and the early shortage of hand sanitizer, Robin turned to the local distillery for alcohol sanitizer. Maintaining flexibility and finding alternative ways of doing things has helped keep Robin’s Candy nimble. Realizing the needs of Ukrainians after the war broke out, she worked with a local church to ship 20 gallons of sanitizer to Ukraine. Paying it forward is a large part of Robin’s mission.
One thing that became apparent during COVID is that people were averse to using paper currency. With the growth in touchless payment systems like Apple Pay, accepting the digital form of BerkShares was a no-brainer decision for Robin. BerkShares has previously circulated, since 2006, as paper notes with 400 participating businesses. With a new scan-to-pay app, digital BerkShares provide an accessible way for people to shop local. From the merchant perspective, it allows participating sellers to save on processing fees and help keep money working within the local economy.
“People have been very good to us over the past 15 years in terms of the support they’ve shown and the willingness to buy from an independent business owner as opposed to buying from a chain or franchise. And this is one way we can give back,” says Robin.
The atmosphere at Robin’s Candy is always brimming with excitement and the thrill of new possibilities. Team members and customers alike keep an eye on the latest TikTok candy trends, bringing new flavors and candy experiences to Robin’s shelves. While things are guaranteed to change, the consistent dose of happiness that you always find at Robin’s Candy is what keeps locals and tourists alike coming back time and time again.