Anyone with a sweet tooth who lives near Upper Montclair must be familiar with Sweet Home Montclair on Valley Road. With double-dipped chocolate pretzels, custom-made sweets and nostalgic penny candy, there’s plenty in the store make your mouth water.
But Sweet Home Montclair isn’t just a candy store, it has unique greeting cards, high-end paper supplies and elegant gifts for every need. Sweet Home Montclair is an all-in-one party supply store. Not the kind with generic cardboard hats and balloons, but the kind where you can pick up sea salt and nut bark and a birthday card no one will have seen in a pharmacy before.
What really makes Sweet Home Montclair a creative and unique store is its creator, Paul Giordano.
“He can set up everything. He’s a phenomenal floral designer and party planner,” said store manger Ann Asilo about Giordano. “He really is. He can take anything and make it into something. People can come to us with a Bar Mitzvah and an idea, and he can make it into a whole thing.”
Sweet Home Montclair is Giordano’s second store in the area. His first, Paul Michael Designs, in Whippany, has a greater focus on floral arrangements and event preparations. He bought the Montclair space about 4 1/2 years ago. About six months after the purchase, the store next door, which sold greeting cards, stationery and paper, left and Giordano was able to expand the store.
Now the shop is larger and has a wide array of offerings. It has gift wines for parties, thoughtful wedding presents and even smaller trinkets, but the real feature continues to be the sweets. The candy and treats are what set Sweet Home Montclair apart from the pack.
“I think what makes us different is that we make our own candy so everything is unique,” Asilo explained. “We have a chocolatier on staff and up in Morris County we have a candy kitchen. At any given time we can 40 different kinds of pretzels on hand. All of our pretzels are double dipped in fine Belgian chocolate … It’s not something that you’re going to walk into any store and say ‘Oh I’ve seen this everywhere.’”
They can even make multi-colored chocolate pretzels to match a function or a theme. The chocolatier also specializes in other treats like cranberry nut bark.
Finding a new community
Getting the Montclair store wasn’t just about having more space, Asilo explained. It was about opening a satellite shop closer to home that would focus on the candy. Sweet Home Montclair has another big difference over its original sister store. Montclair is in a town. There’s foot traffic and a community, whereas Paul Michael Designs has a space near the highway.
“A town crowd is totally different,” Asilo said, in an interview. “You get to know your customers. Even if it means them poking their head in on a Sunday and saying ‘Hi, I just had breakfast. I wanted to say hello.’ You find a lot of people like that. You get to know them and they’re loyal.”
Sweet Home Montclair embraces the community and likes the response. Plenty of people come into the store before they head to the mall or a national chain to try to get what they need locally first.
“The people of Montclair are educated people. They come in and they know what they want and they buy it,” Asilo explained. “When you’re in a town you get to know your customers. Whether they’re young children or old people, when you walk through the door you kind of know them.”
People in town likely know that there’s always something to find in Sweet Home Montclair. Although it focuses on finer goods and gifts, Asilo said that it’s been important to keep a few inexpensive items around so that kids can come in to get a gift for their mother or friend. Another inexpensive hit is the stores penny-candy selection. People come in and find candy they haven’t seen in decades.
Sweet Home Montclair is all about combining the finer things – elegantly designed events, creative and delicious candy, and unique, thoughtful gifts – with a welcoming atmosphere, so that residents can feel free to come in and buy their parents a birthday card or just say “Hi.”