River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen Franchise - Interview with Jennifer and Tim Strickland, Co-Founders
Jennifer Strickland: Jennifer Strickland is co-founder of River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen. She has been in the candy business since childhood, working in family-owned River Street Sweets since the 1970s, doing everything from making candy, to running single stores to now developing the family brand and the River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen franchise. Jennifer was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and took many trips to New Orleans with her family as a child, where they sampled southern favorites, pralines. Knowing the popularity of the sweet candies, Jennifer’s father, candy legend Stan Strickland, tested small batches of pralines at home with Jennifer, her brother Tim and mother Pam until they came up with the “World Famous” recipe River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen still uses today.
Tim Strickland: Tim Strickland is co-founder of River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen. Tim joined the candy industry in 1973 when he was 11-years-old, and is actually credited with getting his parents Stan and Pam Strickland, into the candy business in the first place. It was Tim who encouraged his father to purchase a fudge pot after sampling the tasty delight during the Atlanta Gift Market show. Tim, along with his sister Jennifer and mother Pam, continued to be the taste tester as his father started making small batches of pralines in the family’s home kitchen, until finally landing on a one-of-a-kind recipe. That recipe, and the fudge pot 11-year-old Tim Strickland found, led to the Strickland family opening River Street Sweets more than 40 years ago. The store is now recognized as Savannah, Georgia’s oldest candy store, and inspired the River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen franchise expansion program.
1.Tell us about the River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen concept.
River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen is a marriage of two well-known and highly respected gourmet candy brands based in the Southeastern U.S, River Street Sweets and Savannah’s Candy Kitchen. After operating independent brands for more than two decades, the Strickland family, the proprietors of both candy stores, reunited to offer the River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen franchise opportunity.
2. How and when did you become involved with River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen?
We grew up in the business. Our parents started River Street Sweets in 1973 and it’s been in the family ever since. In 1991 when our dad, Stan Strickland, opened Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, Tim and I took over as co-owners of River Street Sweets, working alongside our mom Pam until her recent retirement. The two stores operated separately on River Street in Savannah, Georgia until about 2006, when Tim and I reached out to Dad about reconciling our differences and uniting as one candy enterprise. A few years later we started discussing franchise opportunities, and decided to combine the best of both candy stores and started franchising River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, which launched in 2014.
3. What was your background prior to joining River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen?
Tim and I officially joined River Street Sweets as co-owners in 1991, but before that, and really our entire lives, we we’ve been part of this business. Before we were old enough to really be useful, we would help bag candy and little jobs around the store. As we got older we had a hand in all kinds of things from making the candy, to managing the business and everything in between. We’ve watched the processes grow and improve; been there when recipes didn’t work out and been a part of improving those processes to make sure we were delivering the best products available. That’s one of the things that make this franchise program so unique; there isn’t anything inside River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen that we haven’t done, and we’re surprised by very little anymore.
4. What are some of the advantages in being a River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen franchisee?
Every River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen franchisee gets hands-on training to make our signature candy, along with the recipes that our family created. We also help each of our franchisees with operational set-up and maintenance that includes store design and construction specs, best merchandising practices and a number of other sales tactics. Best of all, our franchisees get to carry our family name that is synonymous with a rich history and more than 40 years in the candy industry. That carries a lot of weight with it.
5. Who is your ideal franchisee?
Our ideal franchisee is someone who really loves our candy. There isn’t a better advocate for River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen than someone who loves our products, our family brand and who believes that the work is both rewarding and fun.
6. Tell us a little about the candy market?
It’s estimated that in 2017, the confectioneries market is expected to reach $208.5 billion globally, with a projected $6 billion increase in the next five years in the U.S. alone. The confectionaries market is also unparalleled in its ability to fill customers with excitement and interest, particularly at River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, where our handmade southern candies are made in open kitchens in front of our customers. In general, the candy industry has been a large part of the U.S. economy with only a slight slow down during the recession. Confectionery retail sales have risen steadily in recent years in the U.S., jumping to $33.6 billion in 2015. And, candy retailers in the U.S. market have helped support 465,000 jobs nationwide.
7. What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
One of the greatest lessons we’ve learned is that technology is constantly changing and growing and if we want to maintain a strong business practice, we have to embrace it. Whether it’s through social media, video conferencing with potential franchisees, nationwide conference calls or digitizing our training manuals, technology is what will move our brand and business forward. And what we’ve found is that it resonates with people. Our potential franchisees love that we can speak with them through our video conferencing platform, Zoom. It makes them feel more comfortable knowing that we’re available and accessible. That goes for our current franchisees as well. It’s important to us that we provide these convenient, easy to use and inexpensive ways to communicate and interact with our franchisees.
8. Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?
Walt Disney is someone we both look to for inspiration. He was a great leader who embodied honesty, passion, confidence, courage and persistence for the amazing brand he created. Aside from his obvious fame, Disney was also famous for understanding that all accomplishments happened through team effort. One of our favorite Walt Disney quotes is “Whatever we accomplish belongs to our entire group, a tribute to our combined effort.” That’s how we approach doing business at River Street Sweets and how we’ve developed and supported the franchise program at River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen.
9. What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
As a franchisee, you are completely connected with the franchisor and the brand. You have to fully immerse yourself in the business. Take time to know the products, the business and the people so that you feel confident in your business and so your values align with the entire brand. Most importantly, make sure that you love the products and services you are selling.
10. In your opinion, why do you think that River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen would be a great opportunity for someone?
Simply put, the candy business is a booming industry right now, and River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen is at the top of the market. There are very few companies in the franchise sector that can compete with our years of experience and the rich history of our brand. As we continue to expand across Georgia and further along the East Coast, sweeping key markets in the Carolinas, Tennessee,Texas, Alabama and Florida, that brand recognition and reputation is only going to get bigger and better.