A few years ago, I heard a rumor about the city deciding to bring in public opinion before it embarked on a project to repaint the faded, light blue High Level Bridge. Legend has it that officials released a poll which would give Toledo residents a say in choosing a new color, and people could write in a vote for anything they fancied on the light spectrum—magenta, cyan, marigold, cobalt blue, chartreuse, etc. What an opportunity: Toledoans had the chance to literally change their city’s skyline. But what color did we choose to “revolutionize” our city image? Blue. Light blue, specifically.
Finding the balance between new and old is a subtle art: given the opportunity to modernize, we often either a) take it, completely erasing elements of the past, or b) balk at change—or, in other words, vote to keep the bridge blue.
From my observations, the most popular Toledo icons are the ones that have the ability to leverage modern practicality with quaintness and nostalgia. Tourist advertising would tell you otherwise, but very few of these icons feel “timeless.” Modernization has revolutionized the operations of large-scale businesses and is now seeping into local ones. But while the bridge remained blue, nearly invisible on a nice day, a small candy shop popped up on the corner of Phillips and W. Sylvania Avenue: in all its Pepto Bismol-pink glory—visible on any day—Boyd’s Retro Candy.
While its retro authenticity would not make it unreasonable for one to assume that Boyd’s has been around since the 1960s, the candy shop opened for business on Nov. 6, 2006 at its original location at the corner of Arlington and Woodsdale Avenue. Owner Pam Lloyd-Camp told me that while the business has since moved, it has and always will be a passion project.
“We built the business on listening to our customers,” she says with a smile. “You can listen and respond to your customers because it’s the kind of business where you’re right there, hands on.”
Boyd’s seems to have found its own balance, maintaining that old-time feel and using modern means to propagate it. The light blue and striking pink live harmoniously here, as Lloyd-Camp satisfies a high global demand for the retro in the modern age, something other candy stores often struggle to do.
Lloyd-Camp was driven to open a candy store of her own after noticing the limited offerings at a Bowling Green-based candy store she formerly managed. Retro candies, she explained, were frequently in high demand, and the then-manager often struggled to keep up with the requests of customers when they asked for classic candies like “Squirrel Nut Zippers.”
“You can find your treasure buried in Boyd’s,” said Lloyd-Camp on the store’s impressively stocked collection of rare retro wonders. My treasure is ZotZ, a hard candy which reached peak popularity in the 1970s and contains a sour powder that explodes in your mouth the closer you get to the candy’s center.
When Lloyd-Camp opened Boyd’s, both nostalgic inspiration and modern marketing and shipping came from right inside the family. Lloyd-Camp’s great-aunt was also the owner of a candy store, and Boyd’s aqua tiles are dedicated to her mother who boasted an aqua-colored kitchen. Her sister, a retired teacher, co-manages the store, while her nephew has oversight on shipping and stocking. Lloyd-Camp’s 10-year-old granddaughter—who is “getting bad” with an unrestrained candy consumption—also works in the store and brings to the table that touch of innocence.
For the modern audience, Lloyd-Camp’s son handles outreach and publicity. He also frequently takes mountaineering trips across the world, and said his travel itineraries often include picking up candies to distribute at the shop, visiting candy stores on different continents and putting Boyd’s name on the map.
Boyd’s has done its part in modernizing, but “carefully; very, very carefully,” according to Lloyd-Camp’s son.
“It’s a delicate balance between modernizing technology and keeping things old and retro,” he said.
With a “retro” candy store, keeping up with technology is a very internal process. Thus, among the only deliberate updates within the shop itself include the impressive taffy wall and a more current playlist to fill the room while customers browse the walls and shelves of candy.
Most importantly, however, Boyd’s dedicated base of customers have recently flocked to its online ordering system. Online sales, which started with the business’ grand opening in ‘06, have grown exponentially over the past several months and have nearly doubled in volume. That dedication has led Boyd’s to ship candy to nearly every corner of the globe, from Scandinavia to the Philippines.
Even so, Boyd’s hasn’t lost that small-town charm. Lloyd-Camp’s sister bags the products individually before sending them out to ensure their candy is handled with the highest level of care possible, keeping in mind shipping factors such as weather and location. Lloyd-Camp said that on a smaller scale, pedestrian traffic also helps sustain the business, and that Boyd’s has its share of regulars.
“People who were young when the store opened come in with their kids now,” she said.
That “kid in a candy store” spirit may escape me at certain times in my life, but there is no better place than Boyd’s to relive it—literally. To walk into a store and feel the same welcoming air each time over the course of decades is unique only to establishments like Boyd’s.
If light blue is an indicator of a look backwards, an indecisive maintenance of sameness, then Boyd’s flamboyant pink is fearless and strikingly forward. Boyd’s candy store demonstrates an attitude of maintaining the qualities of retro-ness and nostalgia, while pushing forward in the brave new world of technology and shifting fads. Boyd’s intentional website—where shoppers can choose candy by color and type, flavor and occasion—and their shipping services to a worldwide clientele speak to the strengths and techniques local businessmen and entrepreneurs are learning in order to thrive in a globalizing world.
Ruth Chang and Logan Sander contributed to this article.