Sour belts, gummy grapes, tropical drops … Carter Blount, the 8-year-old son of Kanitra and Curtis Blount, directs guests to his personal recommendations as the after-school candy manager at Sweet Factory.
There's lots to choose from: the walls of the store, located at 2733 Freedom Pkwy Dr., are lined with 110 different candies available to scoop by bulk into your own “pick-n-mix” bags.
Bulk candy — plus candy-themed gifts, gummies of all kinds and more — create a nostalgic experience for both the young and young at heart. Carter walks patrons through their options with Cairo Blount, his 3-year-old brother, in tow. From a first step into the store, it is clear the Sweet Factory is about so much more than high-end candy — it’s part of the Blount family’s legacy.
A surprise business
When Kanitra and Curtis Blount arrived in Fayetteville in the fall of 2019, neither spouse knew at the time that Fayetteville would become the home of their first brick-and-mortar business — especially while continuing to serve as active duty service members. Kanitra, a U.S. Army captain, is an active-duty social worker at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Liberty. Curtis, also an Army captain, is an active duty company commander with Fort Liberty’s 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command. With the pressures and uncertainties of military life, even they acknowledge it's a wonder they've managed it all.
The process began when the Blounts applied their military-developed skill of planning backward to create the kind of life they wanted down the road. In considering how they could help bring additional opportunities for Fayetteville families to make memories with their children, they decided to explore the possibility of opening their first kid-friendly business.
“I believe in generational wealth,” Kanitra said. “Nothing has ever been passed down to me, so I thought, why not build something and pass it down to our children?”
In assessing what kind of business might serve the surrounding Fayetteville area while also the values of their family, the Blounts wanted to bring a pick-n-mix bulk candy option to the city. A break-of-service for Kanitra to enroll in graduate school created just the right amount of margin to make it happen.
After a rigorous process, the Blounts became official owners of a franchise location of Sweet Factory. The work would continue for about two years, as the storefront at the newly-built retail development, The Freedom Town Center, took shape. While in her graduate school break of service, Kanitra laid the groundwork for the business to launch. The Blounts ordered and designed custom store furniture, equipment, products and more, working hard over those two years to prepare for this fall's official opening.
With both spouses back on active duty, Kanitra said the business still requires lots of work.
"(B)ut it's fun work," she said. "It’s a candy store!”
And Curtis added: “It’s all about prioritization. You’d be surprised what you can get done whenever you prioritize things properly.”
That said, the Blounts are also extremely appreciative of the work their staff does to keep the store running on a day-to-day basis. Whether it is sanitizing the bulk candy scoops twice daily, running the cash register, preparing promotional plans or posting on social media, it is a team effort between the couple and the Sweet Factory staff. Curtis continues to manage the financial side of the business and Kanitra continues to give design and operational direction. But as any familiar with starting a business might know, when something needs to be done, the Blounts are willing to take an all-hands-on-deck approach.
Kanitra and Curtis decided to invest back into Fayetteville, the place where they live, in order to provide more opportunities for Cumberland County families to create meaningful memories close to home. But what happens when the military requires them to move?
Don’t worry, they tell customers — Sweet Factory is here to stay.
“We have a fabulous team that is growing with us,” Kanitra said. “Eventually, one of the members of our team will take a position where they are in charge of this location. And we’ll come back and visit Fayetteville.”
In addition, Curtis has family roots in North Carolina, making this area even more significant for their family-legacy business.
With only about 90 days since the store’s official launch, this is only the beginning for the Sweet Factory. The Blounts have plans to continue growing the business. Whether congratulating a child on completing their first day of school, or preparing gifts for the holidays, Sweet Factory offers many opportunities for fun. In addition to the bulk candy options, the team is in the process of adding over 250 more. Families can also look forward to live family events in partnership with local artists and other makers.
The first event is in partnership — a "do it yourself" creative workshop, geared toward children ages 5 to 12 — with local artist Stephanie Mollett, a talented local artist. Families can come at from 7 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10, and create Thanksgiving corn and pumpkin art projects.
And if you stop by Sweet Factory after school, you might see Carter or Cairo assisting their parents with orders, providing candy consultations and generally, bringing an extra spark to the storefront.
“It’s great to have a business where your children can participate,” Kanitra said.
As the Blount family works hard to build their family legacy through Sweet Factory, they are only making life in Fayetteville that much sweeter.
Aria Spears is a military family columnist for CityView's HomeFront project.