By Dylan Deprey
As a kid, there’s just something about scrounging $1 worth in loose coins, and hitting the corner store for a treat. Sometimes, it’s to settle that sweet tooth, other times its to indulge in a salty snack. Whatever the reason, it’s that few seconds of freedom to pick whatever isn’t available in a parent’s pantry.
When Donta Holmes stopped at his local corner store, he saw his younger self as a group of kids pooled their money walking into the store.
“I remember going to the corner store every day before we caught the bus for school,” he said. “Growing up in Milwaukee and being out in the community, things have changed.”
Within seconds of entering the establishment, the kids were bombarded with requests for spare change, and surrounded by neighbors buying cigarettes and alcohol.
“There’s nothing against it, but it’s not a good place for a kid, and my mind started moving,” Holmes said.
He thought about the kids he worked with at Running Rebels as the director of youth services. He wanted a spot they could visit for a snack without the corner store comradery.
He recalled his travels, and the old-fashioned candy shops he’d visit. If only the Northside had its own candy store, Holmes thought.
He had some experience managing a party store back in college, but a candy store was a new territory, and he wanted to explore.
It took two years of brainstorming and planning before finally opening Clarke Street Candyland, on Teutonia and Clarke, in November 2021.
The store’s cotton candy-colored walls are lined with confections galore. From novelty and penny candy, to candy machines and classic corner store sweets, Clarke Street Candyland has it all.
Holmes said the store brought a new energy to the area—something a little more than just the average sugar rush. Along with the smell of fresh popcorn wafting through the street, he said it was a place for the youth and their families to come and enjoy.
“It’s not the typical area where you’d find a candy store, but sometimes this area has nice things too, and we should share that with the world,” he said.
Holmes opened the candy store just in time for the holiday season and he’s already looking to expand the store’s reach. He went back to his party store roots with balloons and balloon bouquets, and has also started doing candy buffets for weddings and birthdays.
He said Running Rebels had his back during the planning and building process, and just as the organization went to bat for Milwaukee’s youth, he also wanted Clarke Street Candyland to assist anyway it could.
“I definitely want to do work in the community and with MPS. Maybe start some type of program where youth have incentives for going above and beyond in the classroom,” he said.
Holmes said he has gotten a lot of love and support from friends and the community, but he wants even more people to come and checkout the new space.
“Even if you come in and don’t buy anything, I just want people to come check us out because we are something different in the community,” he said. “We’re not Party City, we’re a part of the city.”
Visit Clarke Street Candyland online or give them a call at (414) 507-2422.