A year ago, Kelly and Windy Swearingin had a vision of opening an old-fashioned soda shoppe in Juneau.
By the time the store opened this fall, it contained much more than just soda. Aurora Sweets, located just inside one of the entrances to the Mendenhall Mall, offers candy from around the world, coffee, sodas, soft-serve ice cream, milkshakes and more specialty drinks.
Windy refers to the store as a “sugar shop,” and she said the idea evolved quickly once the husband-and-wife duo decided to go with sweets.
“We really liked the idea of an old-fashioned soda shop,” Windy said. “That’s what we explored, and then we added the concept of candy into it and then, of course, coffee, because we wanted some place that will go from morning to night. That’s kind of where we started and it kind of grew from there.”
The store is open during the same hours as the mall, running from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. The shop serves Kona Coffee from Hawaii for the morning rush and carries candy from places as far away as Germany for midday snacks.
Along with prompting patrons to treat themselves, Aurora Sweets also looks to promote creativity. Each employee there (there are currently six of them) makes his or her own special dish. One employee created a caramel apple drink, topped with toasted marshmallow whipped cream that Kelly calls “addicting.”
“It tastes like you’re eating the real thing, actually,” he said.
Kierstyn Cadiente, another employee, specializes in a Cherry Garcia, which is an ice cream dish that includes chocolate chunks and cherries. For each Cherry Garcia she sells, Cadiente gets 10 percent of the profit, an incentive meant to encourage employees to make the best concoctions they can.
“We want them to be very creative and we want them to feel like they have some voice in the business as well, so they have opportunity to create their own drinks,” Windy said. “They can create their own milkshakes or coffee or whatever they feel inspired to create.”
Customers are also encouraged to stray from the menu, and can request any kind of ice cream they want. If the shop doesn’t have that kind of ice cream, the employee will try to make that flavor.
“You can come in and be as creative as you would like,” Windy said.
The shop is still filling out its candy selection, filling its plastic dispensers one by one as people request them or as inspiration strikes the employees. The Swearingins are running a sale throughout the winter, offering 10 percent off coffee and ice cream.
They hope to capitalize on foot traffic as people enter and leave the mall while offering people an inviting atmosphere to enjoy a drink or a scoop out of the cold. By the time they got their store open, the Swearingins saw the specifics of their plans change, but they ended up with a place that is inviting — and as sweet — as they had hoped.
“It’s small and cozy,” Windy said, “so it seemed to fit what we were looking for.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.