One of the sweetest secrets in Blackfoot is in the Candy Jar! Paul and Judy Loomis are trying to focus on finding the finest chocolate, caramels, and peanut brittle from local and regional talent. They also feature taffy and hand dipped ice cream. And if that doesn’t sound sweet enough, all the fudge is created right in the shop.
Judy and Paul grew up in Weiser Idaho and were high school sweethearts and left the state when Paul enlisted in the army in 1979. They came back to Idaho 2009, 30 years later. Paul said, “Blackfoot was the first place that I could find employment that would fit me after my military career was over.” A small fabrication company, Premier Technology hired Paul. So, they just stuck roots down. “Judy said we are never moving again,” laughed Paul.
Before starting up the Candy Jar, Paul served as the mayor of Blackfoot from 2014-2018. “When Mayor Virtue decided to retire, I felt that I had the skillset that could help the city. We really did do this as service and it was pleasure to do so. It was a privilege to serve as mayor in Blackfoot,” Loomis said.
It was his time as mayor that sparked his fire for the downtown area of Blackfoot. “While I was mayor, I was promoting the downtown area. I was trying to revitalize it. At first it created a storm by creating a one-way street on Broadway, but now they love that they have additional parking and do not have to parallel park along the street. Through the change we added about 50% more parking downtown,” said Loomis.
While researching ways to revive the downtown area Paul said, “I came and visited with the people who owned this building and suggested that they do something other than a bar in order to enhance the experience for the people visiting the Potato Museum, right across the street. I felt like we needed something to anchor us and to attract people to the downtown area, and not just get back in their car and go on towards Yellowstone.” Six months later, the building came up for sale, and Paul jumped on the chance to push something forward, “I watched it for a while and nobody was doing anything with it, so I took a shot at it. I suggested a candy store. And I just followed through with that suggestion. Poor Judy, my wife, had to suffer through that,” said Paul.
While creating a business plan for the Candy Jar, Paul and Judy looked at the closest shops in the area. They realized the opportunity to get fine chocolates or high-grade candy is limited. Paul said, “Our goal was to feature local, handmade specialty candies as well as create a family-friendly environment for people to come and stay for a while.”
The building itself is 107 years old. It was built in the 1890’s initially as a billiards hall which is what they used to call a saloon. Over the years it is lived several different lives, a harness shop, bicycle shop, barber shop, and then reconverted back to a bar. It took a full year of renovation to get it fit to house the best candy in the region.
“We renovated the whole building, “says Paul. “We tried to maintain the original appearance of the building and the history of the building.”
Paul knew that more than just aesthetic changes needed to be made to the building, a whole new internet technology needed to be installed. Paul said, “Direct Communications was amazing to work with. I said I need to have fiber in this building by the 1st of October and they turned it on the first of October. Direct did a wonderful job.” As many know, in a business your Point of Sale must be reliable. “The amazing thing is, I can’t tell you how many people come in here and run a credit card and it runs so fast that it surprises them,” said Loomis.
Paul said, “Eventually, we want to have more of an online presence. So, customers can order online. Right now, we are using Facebook as advertising and customers call in their orders and we also voice over IP. Our phone system here is on the fiber too. It is amazing to think of all the ways we are utilizing the technology.”
“With Direct, their fiber is not only extremely fast, its reliable. Which is super important to know that we do not have to worry about the internet. We wanted people to be able to come in and sit down with their devices and immediately access the open net in here. Direct helped us create exactly that environment,” said Loomis.