BLACKFOOT – When Paul Loomis decided to do a “soft opening” of his new sweets shop, he never imagined he would be deluged with business. When the Bingham County Chronicle stopped by last Thursday, Paul said he’d had over 100 sales recorded on his cash register system from Tuesday morning through Wednesday closing time.
“Paul said we were doing a soft opening,” Judy Loomis said with a wry smile and a slight roll of her eyes. “As a soft opening, it failed. It was not very soft.”
“And we’ve paid for that craziness ever since,” Paul added.
The Candy Jar opened not-so-quietly a week ago because everyone around town was soon talking about it. The store sells fudge, caramels, chocolates, and ice cream across the street from the Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot.
When the building on the corner of NW Main and Pacific was offered for sale, the Loomises bought it last winter, seeing the opportunity for a family and tourist-friendly candy and ice cream business across from the museum, which has more than 25,000 visitors a year. They are now open though regular store hours haven’t been established yet. Still, they were open every day last week, from Tuesday through Saturday.
THE CANDY JAR
The Candy Jar features fresh fudge made daily in the shop in a variety of flavors by the Loomises using recipes from the Calico Fudge Company. The flavors on sale so far have included chocolate, salted caramel, orange swirl, raspberry vanilla, cookies and cream, and chocolate caramel cookie.
The store also features the distinctive caramels from the well-known Poppa’s Chocolates of Montpelier, which is as far east as one can go in Idaho and not be in Wyoming. They also have a dipping station stocked with east Idaho’s famous Reed’s Ice Cream.
“We don’t have waffle cones yet,” Paul admitted, “but we have cups and sugar cones ready to go. I haven’t unpacked the ingredients to make the waffle cones yet. They’re right over there. I thought I’d have time this week, but people keep coming in.”
The return of Reed’s Ice Cream to downtown Blackfoot is very welcome news for all those who’ve been missing the Reed’s ice cream cones once served up at the now-closed Pappy’s two summers ago.
The Candy Jar also stocks hand-made chocolates and chocolate truffles from famous Weiser Classic Candy in Weiser, which is as far as one can go in Idaho and not be in Oregon. “Some of these are probably from his family’s recipes,” Judy Loomis let slip on Thursday. It turns out that candy making must run in the Loomis family since some of Paul’s sister’s family have worked at the Weiser Classic Candy business.
The store also stocks a selection of classic sodas in a vintage-front Coca-Cola cooler next to the main counter.
“We started working on the building on Jan. 20,” Paul said. “We’re still not done but hope to finish soon.” The front half of his store space is complete but the back half is still a work in progress. Paul intends to finish it as a gallery space and seating area, a place where folks can kick back and relax and where local artists and artisans can display and sell their work.
Having the back half of his retail space still under wraps didn’t stop the Loomises from opening. That area is actually the only spot in the entire building that hasn’t been completely renovated yet.
Paul took the Chronicle for a tour of the rest of the building in early September. “Mark Smith and the rest of the workers have done a great job,” Paul remarked while showing off the upstairs apartment, soon to be rented by the lucky person who grabs the lease. “Look at that walk-in shower! Isn’t that a beautiful job?”
The second floor has been completely renovated as a two-bedroom apartment with a totally new bathroom and a new modern kitchen. Even the roof has been redone.
When the Loomises bought he building, it had one large retail space out front, previously the former Corner Bar, and three small retail spaces on the side fronting Pacific Street. The revamped structure has consolidated two of the smaller retail spaces on the side with the former bar space to form the new Candy Jar store. The westernmost retail space fronting Pacific Street has been renovated and is ready to rent out to a future business.
City and county records indicate that the Candy Jar’s building was constructed sometime during the 1890s. That makes it one of the oldest buildings in Blackfoot and in the county.
“It was a billiard hall at one time,” Loomis said, talking about the history of the structure. “It was also a harness shop and a speakeasy.
“When we were cleaning up the basement, we found slot machine tokens from when the building was a speakeasy. We also found clay poker chips down there too.”
The building has also been home to barber shops, a bicycle store, and more recently the Corner Bar.
The structure is one of the most distinctive of Blackfoot’s original business district due the two stone balls placed on either corner of the roof cornice on the front facade. Local painting contractor Steve Allen repainted the two balls, both more than a foot in diameter, in red and white stripes in August when he repainted the whole building.
The Loomis family has not had an easy time of turning the old structure into new retail space plus upstairs apartment.
“Yes, we had to do some asbestos abatement,” Paul said. The Loomises also put down new hardwood floors and redid all the walls.
“I hand chipped off all the old stucco on that wall,” Paul gestured at the now-exposed brick on the south side of the store over the candy bins. “I don’t want to think about how long it took.”
The Loomises have invested well over $100,000 in their building and their faith in the viability of a family-friendly business across from the downtown magnet of the potato museum. Blackfoot has invested too through grants from the Blackfoot Urban Renewal Agency, which gave the Loomises a $30,000 economic development grant and a $5,000 facade grant.
Paul Loomis originally grew up in a farming family in northern California before moving to Weiser. Once he landed in western Idaho, he met Judy when they were both in high school.
“We met in high school,” he clarified, “just not in the same high school.”
Paul served an LDS mission and married Judy, then enlisted in the Army. He served 26 years as an airborne ranger artillery specialist, retiring in 2005 as a lieutenant colonel.
“I wanted to do another overseas tour,” Paul ruefully admitted, “but Judy put her foot down.”
After retiring from the Army, Paul and Judy landed in Blackfoot. Paul decided he would run for mayor, so he did and won, stepping up in 2014 and serving one term.
Since then, he has continued with community service on the committee of the Mayors Scholarship Fund, which he founded, and on the Bingham County veterans memorial committee for Patriot Field.