Regular customers will tell you that they call Sugar Mouse 'the happy shop'. Walk in through its door on the corner of the cobbled market square in Easingwold, North Yorkshire and it is not hard to see why. There is an entire rainbow of sweets in jars that fills the shelves lining the walls, beautifully packaged artisan chocolates and a freezer stocked with locally made ice cream in flavours such as chocolate fudge brownie and Eton mess. But the welcoming atmosphere at Sugar Mouse is down to much more than just the sweets.
Owner Angela Spencer has worked hard to create a magical sweet shop where friendliness and fun pervade. In Sugar Mouse you can buy a bag of barley sugars for yourself, a sticky selection of multicoloured sweets for children, or an indulgent box of truffles to give as a gift. If you have more time, you can sit and enjoy a hot chocolate and a piece of homemade cake.
"I was walking through Easingwold one day and realised what was missing was a really good sweet shop, the kind of place I used love going to when I was a child," says Angela. But even before the shop first opened its door two years ago, she knew that she wanted to do more than just sell sweets. With a strong sense of the importance of community, Angela wanted somewhere everyone was welcome, where there was always time to chat to customers and a range of products that catered for all tastes and budgets.
Having worked as a journalist and freelance writer for many years, Angela had interviewed a whole range of food producers and businesses. This was where the idea for opening a shop of her own began to grow. "Without realising it I was doing a lot of business research," she says. “When I did open Sugar Mouse, however, my retail experience was limited to working on the pick and mix counter at Woolworths as a teenager!"
Sugar Mouse first opened in a tiny shop just off the market square, but after two years it had grown to the point where there was just no space left. All of the walls were covered with shelves, and vintage apple crates and baskets overflowing with sweets covered the floor. "There was no space for people to linger," says Angela. "We were selling milkshakes, but they had to be taken out of the shop because there were no tables to sit at."
Then, at just the right moment, a larger shop became available. Keen to get into the new space, Angela had the shop decorated and all the fittings and stock moved across in one weekend. It has not taken long for Sugar Mouse to grow into the extra space. You can now choose your favourite flavour of milkshake – there are over 50 on offer, and take a seat among the cushions in the corner seating area while you enjoy it. Coffee, tea and hot chocolate (made with melted chocolate, of course) are also served, along with delicious cakes baked in the shop by Angela's daughter Molly. Molly's passion for baking has found an additional outlet with the expansion of the business. While she was already making mini cupcakes and Mollypops (rich fudge cake dipped in chocolate), the new milkshake bar means that she's now busy in the kitchen making madeleines, tarts and cookies too.
Support from the family has been central to the success of Sugar Mouse. The idea for the name came from Angela's eldest daughter Hannah, and the little pink mouse with the turned up nose that has come to represent the Sugar Mouse brand was drawn by Molly. Husband Barry was called upon to help with the alterations and decorating that was needed to create the welcoming interior of the new shop. The family atmosphere extends to the staff too. Angela has known Shiona since their daughters were at primary school together, and was delighted when she offered to help out in the shop. With Molly and Charlotte completing the Sugar Mouse team, customers can be assured of a friendly smile while shopping. Choosing which sweets to buy from over 200 jars is no easy to task, but no one is ever rushed into making a decision. And while this does mean that sometimes queues build up, especially at the end of the school day when the shop fills with children calling in on their way home, there are never any complaints.
The sweets and chocolates sold at Sugar Mouse embrace a range of artisan Yorkshire producers, together with top quality brands from further afield. Stock is constantly changing to reflect the confectionary seasons – Christmas, St Valentine's Day, Easter, summer weddings and Halloween all have their own specialities. It was a chance meeting with Peter from the York based chocolatiers Guppy's at a market in Easingwold that led to Sugar Mouse stocking their chocolates. This relationship has worked well - Sugar Mouse gets to stock high quality, locally made chocolates, and ideas for new products are exchanged and even tested in the shop. Then there's toffee and fudge from Doncaster, travel sweets and barley sugars from Sheffield, and of course Pontefract cakes. While Angela was working as a freelance writer she interviewed Jeremy and Louise, dairy farmers from near Huddersfield who had turned their hand to making luxuriously creamy ice cream. Even before there was space for a freezer in the shop, Angela knew that someday she would be selling their Yummy Yorkshire ice cream.
And the ice cream is at the heart of one of Angela's new plans for Sugar Mouse. When the warm weather arrives next year, there will be space in the garden behind the shop where customers can sit and enjoy an ice cream in the sunshine. Meanwhile, back inside there are storytelling sessions planned, and 'lock-ins' for teenagers when milkshakes and cake will be served after hours. With so much enthusiasm and lots of space in the new shop to work with, 2013 looks like it will be even more exciting for Sugar Mouse.
Sugar Mouse: www.sugar-mouse.co.uk
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