Chris Guerrette, owner, seated at the mosaic round table made of candy. Photo by Christine Carignan.
Inspiration can strike entrepreneurs anywhere, but a war zone in Afghanistan seems far afield for the roots of Lickee’s and Chewy’s Candies & Creamery in Dover. Yet, that is what happened to Chris Guerrette in 2008 while serving as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force.
Just days before Christmas, he was with a friend looking over a mound of sweets sent in care packages, when his friend said, “That’s a lot of lickies and chewies,” using military slang for candy and snacks. Guerrette, who always wanted to own a candy store, said that would be the perfect name for his dream business.
And, within months of retiring from the Air Force (and taking a civilian consulting job with the military), fate delivered a sweet surprise. His wife called with the news that The Candy Bar & Creamery, a candy shop in Durham where they lived, was for sale. “She told me to get down there,” he says.
The couple bought the shop, adding hundreds of items, including ice cream, and making chocolate and caramels. “It grew and grew,” Guerrette says, noting year-over-year growth in the first four years exceeded 50 percent.
It got so busy, Guerrette quit his job to work at the store full time. “I had the opportunity to do that cliché thing to live my dream,” he says, noting the problem was the 500-square-foot store was too small. “We only had a tiny college-room fridge. We could only make a dozen of anything,” he says.
Guerrette recognized it was time to go bigger. He liked the idea of two mascots: Lickee, a knight who was the son of a baker and got his nickname from always licking the spoon from his father’s creations, and his friend, Chewy, a purple dragon.
He also wanted a location with a castle feel, which the Dover Economic Development Office was eager to help find in the form of a mill building with a tower.
In September 2017, Guerrette signed the lease, secured a $250,000 loan for the fit-up, added industrial refrigeration, created a drawbridge entrance and opened Lickee’s and Chewy’s exactly a year later.
The shop features a medieval fairy-tale land with a dragon’s keep, a fairy village with fairy lights and a large mosaic table made from candy. Dubbed Caramelot, it is ruled by Lickee and Chewy, for whom Guerrette writes adventures and hopes to bring to life through a puppet show, comic book or cartoon.
And there is, of course, candy. The shop is a feast for the senses with 200 types of colorful candy in bulk bins, 28 flavors of ice cream, and King Shakes (pictured)—giant milk-shake concoctions mounded with whipped cream and candy.
Business is booming—500 people came through on opening day alone, and following WMUR’s Chronicle feature, 1,400 people came in one day. While the shop delights children, Guerrette emphasizes it is also for adults, with unique confections from around the world, house-made gourmet chocolates (including some filled with liquor) and high-end desserts, including French macarons, chocolate truffle cake, cheesecake and chocolate dipped cookies. It is a popular dessert stop for couples on weekend nights.
Guerrette entices repeat business by adding something new each week. And it’s working. While the Candy Bar pulls in about $250,000 annually, Guerrette says Lickee’s and Chewy’s generated that much in its first three months. He expects first-year revenue will reach $700,000, which will help him pay off his bank loan early.
In preparation for summer, he purchased a soft-serve machine for $20,000 and added outdoor dining, both have paid off.
The store has 20 employees (three full-time) and the Candy Bar has six part-timers, who he trains extensively on customer service. “We’re different,” Guerrette says. “We sell an experience.”
The location also helps. Situated across from the Children’s Museum of NH and Henry Law Park’s new expanded playground (and outdoor concerts) and next to a toy store, Noggin Factory, Lickee’s and Chewy’s adds to Dover’s family friendly vibe.
Guerrette says the store attracts people from across New England and he wants to continue to build the attraction. “My intent is to be Ben and Jerry’s for the Seacoast region.”
For more information, visit lickeesnchewys.com.