Take a trip down memory lane at Sugar Mags candy shop

Three-year-old Marguerite stands at the ready at her own cash register at Sugar Mags Retro Candy & Soda in downtown Ellsworth. Her nickname “Mags” figures in the old-fashioned candy emporium’s name. PHOTO BY RACHEL TAYLOR

When Sarah Bowden asked her 3-year-old daughter what kind of store would she want if she could have any kind in the world, 3-year-old Marguerite replied, “Well, obviously pink gumballs for everyone, Momma!”

Nicknamed “Mags,” the little girl got her wish in the form of the Sugar Mags Retro Candy & Soda emporium in downtown Ellsworth. Pink gumballs also turned out to be among the shop’s best sellers.

Often on hand to assist customers, Mags has her own small pink cash register stationed about 3 feet below the checkout counter.

“We have the old retro favorites like Necco wafers, candy buttons, Sugar Daddies, Dots, Razzles,” said Bowden while surveying her candy shop on a warm summer afternoon.

Grape, Strawberry, Cotton Candy, Blue Raspberry and other flavors of Pop Rocks beckon from store shelves. Below them Pez dispensers with Mickey Mouse and Goofy on top are lined up.

Caramels, Gummi Bears and other sweets separated into glass jars, though, sold by the pound are a big draw for all ages. Take a white paper bag and mix and match treats to your heart’s content.

Hard candy sticks have been produced since before the Civil War. The multi-hued and flavored sweets are still in demand.

“Tootsie rolls are like 5 cents apiece,” Bowden related. “And, lots of kids can come in and spend their allowance on penny candy, so that’s really fun.”

At Sugar Mags, you also can buy singles, four- and six-packs of bottled, old-fashioned soda pop ranging from Dang! Red Cream Soda to Brownie Caramel Cream Root Beer.

Originally from Orrington, the young candy maven said she had a vision for a “true Main Street mom-and-pop business,” which has come to fruition more than she had imagined.

Some candy the shop carries has been influenced by customers. Bowden has enjoyed taking the time to talk to visitors and learn their tastes.

“One of things I’ve learned is there’s not just one kind of black licorice, there’s Australian black licorice, and English black licorice, and people are very particular, which has been a neat thing to learn about,” she related.

The top request has come from 10- to 12-year-old boys.

“They love Toxic Waste, and I didn’t even know what it was, and over and over again people asked me for it,” Bowden said. Toxic Waste, which comes in little plastic drums, is dubbed “Hazardously Sour Candy.”

Sugar Mags proprietor Sarah Bowden enjoys hearing customers reminisce about their favorite penny candy and other sweets.

Bowden didn’t expect the sense of community the store would create, but has been appreciative of the impact a small business like hers can make.

“The general people who come into a candy store want to spend time with their families,” she summed up. “They want to sit back and enjoy a couple of really neat sodas and share those kinds of memories with their kids or grandkids.”

Sugar Mags is located at 169 Main St. in Ellsworth. The store is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more info, call 812-5623 and visit www.sugarmagscandy.com.