A line of people waited to get inside Wanda’s Sugar Shack Saturday, one of the final Saturdays that the downtown candy shop will be open.
Wanda Hornack, who has owned the store for 40 years, is closing shop at the end of the year due to failing health.
Young and old waited for a chance to get into the store to say “thank you” for the years of service and to take one more chance to buy some of their favorite sweets.
Peter Spalthoff, who owns a business next door, said earlier in the week people had started stuffing notes into the handle of the shop door, notes that said, “thank you” and “we love you Wanda.”
Tracy Dudek was among the customers inside the crowded store Saturday. She said she grew up down the street from Wanda’s house and remembers that at one point Wanda sold candy out of her house. She couldn’t remember what kind it was, but it remains a pleasant childhood memory.
“I’m sad she’s closing, but I’m happy for her that she can rest,” Dudek said.
Dudek’s granddaughter Isabella, cradled in her father’s arms, clutched candy that her mother, Kelly, was gathering to purchase. Kelly’s favorite when she was a child were flying saucers, little colorful wafers with tiny candies inside. She said she couldn’t find any in the shop Saturday, but she was still finding plenty to satisfy a sweet tooth and a walk down memory lane.
Wanda started selling candy during the Great Depression, when she was seven years old. Her mother would send her to school with “moseys,” sugar cups filled with coconut and nuts. She would sell them for a penny each. She always played storekeeper at home and that childhood stayed with her until she opened her first store on June 17, 1973, in a small shop on New Haven Avenue in Milford.
In 1975 she moved to River Street until a major flood destroyed her business in 1982. After taking in the devastation of the flood she decided that it wasn’t going to stop her from re-opening. She re-opened in an adjacent shop and continued to run Wanda’s Sugar Shack.
Then in 1992 tragedy struck again; this time it was a fire that swept through her store and a few adjacent businesses.
“In ten years I lost the business twice,” she said during interviews following the fire. “But I’m a tough old bird. I kept bouncing back.”
And so she did, opening at 32 Broad Street.
Then again on Feb. 14, 2000, a disastrous day for Wanda, a fire once again destroyed her store. A week to the day later on Monday, Feb. 21, Wanda’s Sugar Shack re-opened at 8 Harborwalk in downtown Milford.
Shaileen Hathaway was at 8 Harborwalk Saturday with her sister and nephews.
“I’ve been to every single Wanda’s, even the one on New Haven Avenue,” Hathaway said.
She, like many others who poured into the store this past weekend, said she’d love to see someone take over the store. She said if she could buy it she would, and she’d keep the store name ‘Wanda’s’.”
“I’d even change my name to Wanda to make that work,” she said with a laugh.
Of the three stores, Hathaway said her favorite was probably the one across from the old Milford High School.
“They had a slush machine, and we’d get one and then go sit on the riverbank and drink it,” she said.
Family members said that after word spread that Wanda’s would close, they got at least one email from someone saying they were interested in taking over the business. There has been no news on that yet.
Family members manned the cash register Saturday, and a line of people stood in front of it all day.
“It’s very busy,” Donna Proto said, smiling, as she continued to bag candy sales.
Nora Cantiello, 5, had a basket in her hand as she neared the register, one of those wicker baskets as reminiscent of Wanda’s as the glass jars filled with candy and the big artwork of a tooth on the wall.
Nora had a candy necklace, gum, a candy hot dog, and more. Her favorite, she said, is the candy necklace.
Wanda’s has only been open sporadically since the beginning of the year, after Wanda fell and had a tough time bouncing back from her injury.
The candy maker, 91, has been staying with her daughter in West Haven and was not well enough to be at one of the final sale days at her shop.