By Anna Akins, Savannah Morning News
After years of separation, branches of the Strickland family, who own River Street Sweets and Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, are back together in the sweetest of reunions.
At the Savannah Morning News’ BiS Luncheon on Wednesday, father Stan Strickland and his children Tim and Jennifer shared their success story and discussed how their family has joined forces to create a new franchise.
The River Street Sweets-Savannah’s Candy Kitchen’s first franchise is set to open Friday at the Tanger Outlets in Pooler.
“What we did with this store was to combine the best practices of both companies,” Tim said. “We used these practices to create a stronger brand on a regional and national level and at the same time, to bring our family back together again.”
Rewinding nearly 40 years to 1972, Pam and Stan Strickland got their start in the candy business after opening a small gift shop with Pam’s mother on River Street. The gift shop eventually garnered the name River Street Sweets, but according to Stan, it struggled to find a specific identity.
Then, after the family attended the Atlanta Gift Show, they gained inspiration to try a variety of candy recipes.
“We started looking for different recipes of candies that we could make — Pam would read something, and I’d try to make it,” Stan said. “And one night we stumbled on something that worked.”
That something ended up being pralines, which has become one of the company’s best sellers.
After Pam and Stan divorced in 1990, Stan opened Savannah’s Candy Kitchen while Tim and Jennifer stayed with Pam at River Street Sweets.
“Pam, Jennifer and Tim grew River Street Sweets into something special,” Stan said. “They grew it to be very strong.”
River Street Sweets now has eight locations in Savannah, South Carolina and Atlanta while Savannah’s Candy Kitchen has four locations in Savannah, Atlanta, Charleston and Nashville. The companies also have established a global presence, shipping their products to countries such as Saudi Arabia, China and Russia.
Stan credited the quality people they’ve worked with as the reason for both companies’ success and cited their employees as their biggest asset.
Tim and Jennifer concluded the luncheon by discussing the impact their parents have made on their business skills as well as their goals for the franchise.
They agreed that their parents expected nothing but the best from them.
“They always expected hard work,” Tim said. “When we made a B on a paper, they’d ask us why we didn’t make an A. When we were on the athletic field and played OK, they’d ask why we didn’t do our best. They were always pushing us.”
Tim also described how his mother and father combined their attention to detail and organizational skills to instill a “no excuse attitude” in him and Jennifer.
Even when the business struggled, Tim and Jennifer said the lessons they learned from their parents enabled them to be persistent and to never give up.
While the Strickland family may have grown apart over the last 25 years, family members believe their franchise will allow them to come together, stronger than ever before.
“Savannah’s Candy Kitchen will always be a strong brand, and River Street Sweets is a really strong brand,” Jennifer said. “But as we move forward, we’re going to offer franchises together because we know that together, we’re stronger than we are individually.”