HALLOWELL — Downtown Hallowell will be a little less sweet beginning next month.

The owners of Scrummy Afters Candy Shoppe, which opened in November 2012, announced last Thursday their store at 136 Water St. in Hallowell will close permanently Friday, May 1, so they can focus on online and mobile sales.

“It is with equal parts sadness and hope for a brighter future to say that as of May 1 … Scrummy Afters Candy Shoppe will no longer be at 136 Water St. Hallowell,” Hilary Vellani and Kim Davis wrote in a Facebook post.

“We are redirecting our efforts in these uncertain times towards our online venture and mobile unit, when it is safe to do so. This restructuring will afford us more time to focus on creating new and exciting things!”

Vellani told the Kennebec Journal she and Davis, her mother, have been thinking about closing the Water Street shop for “a little bit,” but the coronavirus pandemic was “the last straw.”

“As an emotional blow, it’s very big,” Vellani said Thursday. “In terms of business, it’s the smartest move we could do.

“Like any new business, you enter with maybe blind optimism. If you didn’t have that, you wouldn’t do anything.”

Vellani said the retail portion of the business has been difficult, despite the support of Hallowell shoppers.

Co-owners Hilary Vellani, left and Kim Davis take down a Mona Lisa print from behind the cash register Thursday at Scrummy Afters in Hallowell. The print was decorated with an ever changing variety of candy. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

“Retail has been hard for us in general,” Vellani said. “We’re in a small town and it takes a lot of foot traffic for us. We rely heavily on volume. We were reaching stagnation.”

Vellani called the closure “bittersweet.” It gives her time to focus on parts of the business she loves — especially creating interesting confections in the kitchen and working more on packaging. She said the business still has a lot to learn, like figuring out how to stand out in the huge online market.

“(The closure) kind of affords us time to spend our hours in the kitchen, where we have the ability to be uber creative with the confections we make,” Vellani said.

“The challenges, again, because there’s going to be even more demand online is finding your unique voice online.”

Vellani said she fears other downtown businesses might close, but declined to speculate on other owners’ situations. She said a number of Hallowell’s businesses are run by people with a trade or passion, and she did not know if there were safety nets for some owners.

“There’s also a lot of resiliency in this town,” she said. “Generally speaking, keeping downtown businesses open are really hard.”

Davis said she was worried about the typically busy summer months this year, given fewer people are likely to travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the past few years, Scrummy Afters has organized a Harry Potter-themed scavenger hunt and costume ball in downtown Hallowell. Davis estimated more than 400 people would attend the event each year.

While the scavenger hunt and other downtown events brought people into the shop, Davis said average numbers were not strong enough to sustain the business.

“It’s great four or five times a year, but you have to depend on more people coming more frequently,” Davis said. “I think (restaurants and bars) do well because you’re going to stay for an hour or two. You’re less likely, if you can’t find a parking space, to jump into the candy store.”

Vellani said Scrummy Afters’ online catalog will be limited to its own confections for now.

“We just purposefully kept that selection small to get a hand on that whole process,” she said. “If it catches some momentum, we’ll slowly add to our catalog.”

The business travels to events with a mobile candy shop, which will also become a focus when virus-driven restrictions loosen.

Davis said the business will still honor any outstanding gift certificates.

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