Running the world’s oldest sweet shop would be a tempting proposition for many people but new owner Ben Howie gets more than just a sugar hit from the High Street business.
While he cheerfully admits to sharing the nation’s fascination with sweets and the history of the products he sells, the 24-year-old has also slipped into a community of independent traders who help to give the High Street its unique appeal to both locals and visitors.
Ben took over The Oldest Sweet Shop In The World recently, in a career switch that saw him leave a large manufacturing company for the attractions of face-to-face interaction with his customers.
The shop was confirmed as the world’s oldest by Guinness World Records in 2014, after trading continuously since 1827.
Ben likes his stock to have the same history as his shop, however, and many of his products are sourced from manufacturers who have been making their sweets the same way for many generations.
After taking over the shop in autumn, Ben had a challenging start because of the coronavirus lockdown, which saw the doors closed in a move he recognised was needed to help protect the community.
The shop continued to trade online, however, and attracted new customers as well as those who would previously have bought their favourite confectionary over the counter.
“There is a lot of nostalgia here, people will tell us their parents brought them here. It is so special. What attracted me to this shop is that it is the pinnacle of sweet shops,” he said.
“It is also on a prestigious High Street, which has been voted the best and that is through the work of the traders.
“That comes from supporting one another and helping others where possible. It is not just about businesses supporting each other, the community support us as well,” he said.
The High Street is important to the economy because businesses employ local people, which helps to keep the area vibrant.