Bringing together products for pets, children, gift givers and those with a sweet tooth is an unusual mix for a retail store admits Sully Loves Sugar owner Amanda Stroup.
But that was part of Stroup’s vision to launch her first-ever retail venture.
The Marshfield shop opened in late 2019 and fills around 1,700 square feet at 1329 Spur Drive, Ste. 30. It marks a career shift for Stroup, who previously worked as a title clerk for Don Vance Auto Group.
“I knew there was something else out there for me. I really wanted to start my own business,” she says. “It’s all things happy, is how I would describe it. … You walk in and anything you buy for your pet or anything you buy for your child or inner child as an adult, all of that is just designed around anything that puts a smile on your face.”
Sully Loves Sugar’s sales reflect the different reasons customers visit the store, Stroup says. She estimates roughly two-thirds of sales are generated by candy, which includes saltwater taffy and Dippin’ Dots, and children’s items, such as toys, games and clothing. The remainder is for pet products, including food, treats and toys.
“It just depends on who you are as a customer and what it is you’re looking for,” she says of the shop’s appeal. “We’re very eclectic.”
Stroup says the shop’s name is a salute to her family’s golden retrievers, Sully and Sugar. Sully made occasional appearances at the store before he died last year, she says, but more often was at home keeping Sugar company.
For the first several months following the store opening, Stroup maintained her job at the auto dealer before jumping full time into her first business venture. And her husband, Andy, fronted the shop $10,000 to cover rent several months in advance – decisions that turned fortuitous amid the coronavirus pandemic’s arrival last year, she says. Stroup says she didn’t want the worries of rent coming due in her early months of operations.
“I was thinking, ‘Thank the Lord I paid the rent up.’ And thank goodness I still have my full-time job at the same time,” she says, noting the store closed for around six weeks when Marshfield had a stay-at-home order in late March 2020. “I was absolutely determined not to give up. I really built up the confidence in myself that I was not going to let this fail.”
November and December of last year – the first full Christmas holiday season for the shop – proved challenging to maintain stock due to high customer demand, Stroup says. Still, the pandemic was impactful on the company’s bottom line for 2020, she says, declining to disclose revenue.
However, 2021’s forecast is looking sunnier, she says, with year-over-year first quarter revenue growth up 23%.
“We will probably cross six-figure revenue by August. That’s what we’re on track for,” she says. “The first quarter of this year is already over half of our income that we had in all of 2020.”
Stroup credits part of the growth on word-of-mouth as well as her decision last summer to work full time in the shop. During that time, she connected with Jelly Belly Candy Co., which resulted in its jelly beans becoming the store’s current top-selling product, she says. Collectible animal figurines from Schleich USA Inc. and Calico Critters by Epoch Everlasting Play also rank as the store’s top three sellers.
“When we put jelly beans in, we sold 100 pounds in the first week. Let’s just say that Marshfield loves their jelly beans,” Stroup says.
Linda Cohen, Midwest regional sales representative for Jelly Belly, says she began working with Sully Loves Sugar in fall 2020 as part of her 18-state client territory.
Cohen says Stroup came to St. Louis in December to pick up a large bulk display, which holds 24 flavors of jelly beans. The store’s most recent order this month is for 10 cases, costing $500, Cohen says.
Cookies also are part of the line of sweets sold at Sully Loves Sugar.
Desi Becht, owner of home-based Marshfield bakery 2 Kids and a Crumb, says she began supplying the store with decorated sugar cookies in October for an undisclosed rate. She bakes two dozen cookies per week, adding she’s also shops at Sully Loves Sugar for kids’ toys and dog treats.
“They don’t tell me what style to do, so I get so much freedom to do whatever I want,” she says of the cookie designs, such as avocados and flamingos.
Stroup says minor renovation work that freed up an additional 300 square feet of retail space wrapped up this month. Now, doubling the staff is in progress. A recent Facebook post she made advertising for new employees drew over 100 applicants, she says.
While Stroup says she’s made good use of the shop’s space, a future move could be in the works.
“We’re just watching the economy close and seeing if things continue to go in the same direction. Then, we might be looking at a bigger space altogether,” she says. “We’ve kind of explored our options.”
However, taking the shop’s busy holiday season last year into account, she says potentially relocating before the end of the year is unlikely.
“We’ve had some people contact us to possibly rent space from them,” she says, declining to identify interested parties. “But we’ve just not pulled the trigger on anything yet.
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