SALEM – Her business deals in sugar, but the sweetest thing at Curly Girl Candy Shop is a calendar covered in QR codes.
This upcoming Labor Day, Curly Girl will be celebrating a year of activity downtown, and with it a chance to revisit how she donates to the city after effectively turning the idea of philanthropy into a monthly calendar. But like so many aspects of the still-young company, the philanthropy that pops up at the point of sale — “Sweet Support” as it’s called, using $1 Smarties lollipops — was “another one of those accidental things.”
What kind of happy accidents are we talking about here? Marnie Greenhut, the owner and literally “curly girl” behind the brand, has a growing list.
For one thing, New York seltzers are one of the hottest items for tourists, but they only made it into the store because they were the perfect size for a small shelf, she said. Explain. Satellite wafers continued to sell out after becoming an unexpected hit, but waiting for restocks was no problem since most customers didn’t know they were there to begin with. In fact, many of the best treats for nostalgic travel — like Sky Bars — came from suggestions put forward by one person, only to take off once they hit the shelf.
“My former neighbor, her daughters helped me prepare (to start the business),” Greenhut said. “They were stickering our bags, and she asked if we were going to have Sky Bars. Now people come and buy six, seven at a time.
The business opened on Labor Day weekend in 2021 and immediately found success with Salem shoppers. October was an explosive month that saw the store scramble to meet exceptional demand, according to Greenhut.
While candy stores can be an easy model to replicate anywhere, there’s something special about Curly Girl: the “Sweet Support” calendar, one of the most effective nonprofits’ successes. of Salem who benefit from year-round activity.
This month, every $1 Smarties pop sold over the counter will send its profits to LEAP for Education. A jar on the counter laden with lollipops describes the organization as empowering “underserved students to achieve social and economic mobility by cultivating personal, educational, and professional growth.”
“Thank you for supporting the bright future of our students here during LEAP’s 20th anniversary!” concludes the note on the pot. “Scan the QR code to learn more.”
The idea for the philanthropic pops came from a candy company Greenhut worked with, where the lollipops benefited the Make-A-Wish Foundation, she said. But in the end, far less than half of the dollar tied to each lollipop actually went to the regional organization.
“I was like, ‘It’s not a bad idea, but why not do something that actually affects your local community, where are all the profits going?'” Greenhut said. “Most of the dollar we charge goes to the organization.”
Each organization that will receive support is included on a wall section announcing the recipient month after month. January sent money to Northeast Animal Shelter; June — Pride Month — supported the Northshore Alliance of LGBTQ Youth. October, the biggest month of the year, will raise the biggest pool of lollipop money for Salem Pantry just in time for the holidays, their busiest season for donations and transactions.
Salem Pantry has been an easy organization to support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as the nonprofit has grown in size to meet similar demand. That said, Curly Girl does something executive director Robyn Burns said she’s never seen before.
“Most companies, when they do some sort of charitable cause for the month and move on to another organization, for the past, their information disappears,” Burns said. “I haven’t seen this level of support for nonprofits in local businesses.”
Linda Sarris, executive director of LEAP for Education, described the store’s donation model as “a cast of many impressive names known in the community.”
“We were totally honored to be selected for this month,” Sarris said. “She is a role model for other companies.”
Like surprises in sales, philanthropy has sometimes surprised business.
Many customers will automatically decline the opportunity to purchase a Smarties pacifier, Greenhut said. This led her to push her staff to hold the ground until they dropped the name of the organization receiving the benefits.
“Then you say, ‘It goes to HAWC,'” Greenhut said, referring to ‘Healing Abuse, Working for Change,’ a North Shore nonprofit that works somewhat invisibly to help — if not. save – victims of domestic violence. “They’ll say, ‘oh, yeah, they helped my sister.’ Or ‘they helped my friend.’ Then they’ll tell you a whole story about how HAWC helped them.
Then, another lollipop crosses the counter, and a victim of abuse on the North Shore comes that much closer to having the support of a lawyer in court.
“Marnie just gives of her time and energy,” said Kylie Sullivan, executive director of Salem Main Streets, another Sweet Support recipient. “Marnie isn’t the only company to have a program like this (to donate sales), but she’s been making a wall out of it all year. So it’s not just about showing off its good philanthropy as a business; he also runs for all the big, big non-profit groups that operate in Salem.
“We really love Curly Girl,” Sullivan said, “and we love Marnie.”
Contact Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or DLuca@salemnews.com. Follow him on facebook.com/dustinluca or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.