One Portland woman is bringing back the age old expression, “like a kid in a candy store,” by making shopping for wholesome candy in an old-fashioned environment fun and relevant again. And the sweet treats you’ll find in her shop, Candy Babel, aren’t typified by toxic colorings, dyes, or gluten. Offering a delectable array of vegan international and local candies (not to mention 275 flavors of homemade cotton candy), owner Amani Greer opened the doors of her shop a year and a half ago hoping to replicate the candy consuming experience she enjoyed living in Denmark years ago.
So what’s got Portland parents excited about Candy Babel? For starters, Amani doesn’t sell anything that’s not GMO-free. She’s also committed to never retailing products that contain laundry lists of toxic ingredients — including known harmful chemicals and artificial colors like red dye 40. Her motto? If she can’t make it in her kitchen, she shouldn’t be eating it and neither should her customers.
“Parents come in [to the store] and scope it out and make sure they want to tempt their children with the options,” shares Amani. “Parents come with kids and then they return by themselves.”
Candy Babel’s collection features a small but concise list of items that stem from GMO-free vendors in the Netherlands, Spain, Ghana, West Africa, Kenyan Candy and Germany. Amani’s appetite for candy grew when she discovered that other places like Copenhagen (where adults aren’t ashamed to ride their bike to the candy store for their daily pound of sweets) don’t allow GMOs, trans fats or high fructose corn syrup in any of their foods… including candy. Surprisingly, Amani also discovered that the candy she found overseas didn’t slow her down, tasted better and, from her perspective, didn’t cause people to be overweight.
The black licorice is a cult favorite. Scented toffees, overcooked caramels and chocolate-covered gummy bears also top the list of bestsellers. There are even a few pieces of plant-based candy from Germany that are sure to get your taste buds doing back-flips.
Next on the horizon for Candy Babel may be a training program. Amani loves the idea of employing young people and providing them with an opportunity to test their creativity and innovation. Amani says that careers in candy making don’t get the recognition they deserve and skill development is lacking in culinary institutions. But she’s in no rush. Right now she’s content with being part of a local community that supports her business.
On a particularly rainy day, common for the Northwest, Amani welcomes her customers with warm smiles and great advice: “Don’t forget to brush your teeth! It’s a rainy day so people need candy.”