Janie DeJaeghere is a kid in a candy shop.
In addition to having a serious sweet tooth, an eye for the exceptional and the creative design skills to bring it to life, the owner of the Woodward Avenue Candy Shop in Ferndale loves a good story. And everything in her shop — including the customers — has one.
Offering bin after barrel of taste-bud-boggling assortments of nostalgic candies and flavored sodas, stocked in a vintage Frigidaire, as well as her own baked confections, DeJaeghere has created a step-back-in-time family-friendly emporium with a goal of not only sharing with customers her thrill for nostalgia, but also making them part of the family.
“People come in and tell me ‘I loved these when I was a kid,’ or ‘My grandmother always got these for me,’ and I love that they share their stories,” DeJaeghere says. “And if they want something I don’t carry, I will do everything I can to find it for them.”
Offering everything she can from the late-1930s up, the shop brims with old-fashioned fruit slices, Shoe String Licorice, salt-water taffy, Marshmallow Cones, Mary Janes, Gold Mine Nugget Bubble Gum and Beemans Gum, Fizzies, Rock Candy, Fun Dip, colored gumballs and so much more.
She has also uncovered sweet, made-in-the-USA soda pop in vintage-style packaging. “We used to sell only Faygo and Town Club, because they are Detroit natives, but there are a lot of other shops nearby that carry them, so I wanted to branch out a bit,” DeJaeghere says.
Over the course of a successful 13-year banking career, DeJaeghere’s sister loved making her own candies at home. DeJaeghere was intrigued but tried to steer clear, as she didn’t have the time and knew she would become “suckered” in. She was right.
And once she started, she began experimenting with different ideas, like strawberry fudge, Nutella-stuffed croissants, rainbow-layered cupcakes-in-a-glass, Trix marshmallow bars and her now-famous Red Velvet Cake Pops. After expanding beyond her capacity on weekends at the Gibraltar Trade Center, she and her husband, John, found this space on Woodward, a former drag-queen resale shop. “It was perfect,” says DeJaeghere, in part because a back lot (off the street) with free parking makes it child-friendly. She opened her doors in September 2010.
In addition to buying, baking and perfecting each display in the shop, DeJaeghere also offers a sweet assortment of vintage-style milk glass and other serving pieces available for rent or purchase, which is just a foray into her side services: DeJaeghere creates custom candy and dessert buffets for events from birthday parties and showers to bar and bat mitzvahs.
Mini cheesecakes, chocolate-covered strawberries, homemade s’mores, cake pops, cookies — DeJaeghere will create pretty much anything a client wants, including hundreds of white-chocolate photo frame place cards — topped with edible photos of the bat mitzvah girl as a toddler.
“One grandmother-to-be was giving a baby shower, and she wanted sweet little cakes,” DeJaeghere says. “I designed 25 different little baby cakes for her, and she ended up loving them all, so we did an assortment.”
She will do decorate-your-own cupcake bars, cookies-and-milk bars (replete with a choice of strawberry, chocolate or white milk) with giant cookies topped with sprinkles, chocolate chunks and more stuffed into a Mason jar, and custom popcorn stations where guests can choose from caramel, kettle or plain corn, plus toppings.
“They choose their creation, and I put it on a plate with their name drizzled in chocolate and they can pick it up when they leave,” DeJaeghere says.
She also does prop and jar rental, tablescape design services, pick-up and delivery and more — everything that is needed to give her treats the vintage touch that she (and her customers) love and the attention to detail she demands. She also offers kosher items and can rent a kosher kitchen for baked goods, if needed.
Because DeJaeghere likes to do a lot of custom orders, she tries to keep her baked goods stock in the shop to a minimum, and as an outlet for fresh, daily experimentation. But if she does overdo it, she will donate all leftovers to a local food pantry. Partly because it is important to her to give what she can. “But also,” she says, “I don’t want all this stuff in my house!”
Woodward Avenue Candy Shop, Ferndale (248-565-8660; woodwardcandy.com and on Facebook).