After working for 22 years as a police officer, Miguel Vergara told his family he was ready for a change.
Without a doubt, his new workplace is as different as can be from his former career policing the streets of the Bronx. And with rows and rows of candy in all colors, shapes and flavors, it’s also a little bit sweeter.
Vergara opened the doors of Sweet Cart Candy Shoppe to the public for the first time last weekend, realizing a longtime dream to start his own business. It is the only candy shop of its kind in the town of Riverhead, offering everything from gummies to taffy to fresh, locally baked fudge.
“It’s got the feeling of an old-fashioned candy shop,” said Vergara, who lives down the road from the store in Wading River. “It brings you right back to your childhood.”
Tucked behind the carousel at the Shoppes at East Wind, Sweet Cart is reminiscent of a mom-and-pop general store from years past. Barrels filled with taffy are lined up beneath the windows, and dozens of jars containing as many varieties of sweets fill the floor-to-ceiling shelves. Each is lovingly adorned with a handwritten label, courtesy of Vergara’s daughter.
“You can buy candy at a CVS, but how good does it feel getting medication and a candy bar?” Vergara said. “It’s a huge difference to get it at a real candy shop.”
The shop’s design is not the only thing that’s vintage. Sweet Cart is also offering classic candies like Sugar Daddy, Good and Plenty and Clark Bars in a section specifically for older sweets.
“We’re creating new memories for the little ones and triggering some nostalgic ones too,” Vergara said.
Sweet Cart also sells a variety of fresh, locally baked fudge with several rotating flavors. The shop will also rotate some products seasonally – right now, you can buy pumpkin fudge, candy corn and lots of gummies in spooky shapes like “missing body parts” and “bloody bones.”
For Vergara, the shop has fulfilled a deep-rooted longing to run his own business. “I have always had a burning desire to do something like this,” he said.
Though he has no experience as a shopkeeper, selling candy seems to run in the family. His grandfather once owned a general store in a neighborhood in Puerto Rico, where Vergara remembers hanging around the candy section as a young child.
“That’s where I got my real taste for candy,” he recalls, laughing.
The store is also an opportunity for him to work with others in a positive setting, something he was searching for after his retirement from the force. He speaks fondly of his 22 years at the New York Police Department – “It made me who I am today,” he explained – but many of his experiences as an officer took an emotional toll.
“In law enforcement, you meet people going through some very hard times,” Vergara said. “I saw things most people will never see in their lives. It took so much away from who I was prior to when I was an officer – I lost the funny, quirky, silly guy I used to be.”
Since he has made his entrepreneurial debut, Vergara says, he is “a changed person.”
“It makes me feel good to see a smile on somebody’s face,” he said. “And here, people walk in with a smile and they walk out with a bigger one. How can you not smile when you’re having some candy?”
Sweet Cart Candy Shoppe is open 7 days a week. It is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.