Last edited 12:20 p.m., Nov. 1, 2019
A former vape shop owner is turning to a sweeter venture.
Robert Sands plans to open Queen City Soda & Sweets later this month at 301 Park Central West in downtown Springfield.
Sands said he had the idea for the store a few years ago. The national news coverage of the negative effects of vaping was the push he needed to move forward. He closed his 7-year-old SunRay Vapors at 212 S. Campbell Ave. this week.
“I am just seeing the effects of vaping right now. Business kind of dropped,” Sands said. “I kind of saw the writing on the wall.”
For his next venture, the self-described “candy fanatic” co-owns Queen City Soda & Sweets with his brother, Donny, who lives in Los Angeles.
“We loved candy shops ever since we were little kids,” Robert Sands said. “I love the whole idea of old, nostalgic candy. I didn’t want anything like you’d see in a mall.
“I wanted that appeal like you stepped back in time.”
He said the store off the downtown square would carry over 200 varieties of craft soda – such as Butterbeer inspired by “Harry Potter,” black cherry and cream soda – sold in glass bottles for around $3 apiece. Bulk candy, including fudge, Crispycakes, Turkish taffy and Zagnut bars, would be sold out of apothecary-style glass jars for $13 a pound.
“This is going to be a great place for the college students; they think it’s a great date area,” he said. “And kids are going to love it.”
Sands said he’s remodeling the inside of the store with wooden shelves and an old-fashioned soda fountain bar.
“I thought I could get it done for $15,000, but once (my brother) came along, we were able to go quite a bit more than that,” Sands said. “We want to do this right. We’re not sparing on this store.”
Sands signed a three-year lease with Bob McCroskey Real Estate Inc. for the roughly 1,600 square-foot store, which was the first location for the now $20 million Hurts Donut Co. Tim and Kas Clegg, along with Hurts Donut business partner Scott Bussard, had planned a new concept dubbed Zombie Dogs and Fries in the space, but they’ve since changed their plans.
Tim Clegg said he made an offer to buy the space, but couldn’t come to an agreement on price with the owner. But, that doesn’t spell the end for Zombie Dogs.
"The concept is still very much alive with us, no pun intended,” he said this morning. "But with our growth and the direction that Hurts is going, we have to focus on that. It’s still definitely a topic of conversation."
At Queen City Soda & Sweets, Sands is the sole employee, though he plans to hire and set hours for the shop once he gauges interest in the business. His grand opening date is scheduled Dec. 1.
Sands said this spring he plans to add patio seating and serve ice cream and floats.
“I think it’s going to be great for Springfield,” he said. “Every downtown, wherever we go … they all have a candy shop.”
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