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When Bonnie Andrews lost her job during the height of the 2008 recession, she turned a family tradition into an income stream. For years, she had crafted homemade toffee around the holidays to give as gifts to friends and family, using her mother’s recipe. Finding employment was difficult, and her friends suggested she turn her toffee-making talent into a business. Andrews was initially reluctant, believing toffee only has seasonal appeal. “People eat candy all year,” her friends replied.

Persuaded, Andrews started a toffee business out of her house and spent eight years building the business at farmers markets, craft fairs and other events. When she was finally ready to transition to a brick-and-mortar store, a chance drive past a “for lease” sign in Independence prompted the Dallas resident to open Melting Pot Candy at the corner of Main Street and C Street.

We spoke to Andrews about her experience as a retailer in Independence since 2017.

Bonnie pictured with tray of cookies for Melting Pot Candy

Founder and owner Bonnie Andrews

Melting Pot Candy store-front on main street

Melting Pot Candy found in Independence, Oregon on the corner of Main Street and C Street

1. How has your business changed now that you have a storefront?

When I got the storefront, I was thinking, “This is easy, I’ve been doing it for eight years.” Oh my gosh, it’s a totally different animal, it’s like a different business altogether. But I like being in the storefront because people know where they can find me. I’ve always had a website, but since COVID, it’s really helped a lot to generate more interest in my product. So that was one of the benefits that came out of COVID for me, I got more online interest from people.

2. What drew you to open your store in Independence?

I love Independence, first of all. I took small business classes in Salem, and ended up sitting in during the same series in Independence, and I was just overwhelmed by the amount of interest and concern from the Independence leaders. The mayor and the city planner and everybody came, handing out cards and saying “We would love to have you here in Independence. If you’re interested, we’ll work with you, we’ll find you a spot.”

Then when it came time for me, I looked and I looked and I looked for places for my business, and I didn’t find anything that spoke to me. But one day I was driving through Independence, and I saw this shop for lease in the building that I’m in. I was like, “That is the place that I want to be.” It just feels like a candy shop to me. And I just felt like I was home.

And, I’ve just always really liked Independence. When my kids were young, I used to come out here for the firework shows, and we’d spend time here in the park. It just has that hometown, small town atmosphere about it. People are friendly here, there are always a lot of people down here on the main street, walking and shopping. Independence is growing so much, but I still feel like it has that small town vibe, friendly and trustworthy.

Melting Pot Candy Passion fruit truffles

3. Did Independence continue to be a supportive place for business?

Absolutely. My neighbor across the street at Brew Coffee and Taphouse, Mitch (Teal) would come over and chat with me when I first moved in, asking if there is any way we can partner together. My rival Jubilee on the other corner is somebody I used to wholesale to in Salem before I had a shop. When I told her I was doing cake pops and I showed her some pictures, she goes, “You should totally bring some down here and I’ll sell them for you.”

So it’s just a “we’re in this together” thing. You support each other as businesses. You feel like the community supports you, everybody that comes in says “We’re so happy to have you here.” The Independence Downtown Association, they’re always popping their head in and saying, “Do you need anything? Is there anything we can do for you?” Shawn (Irvine, Economic Development Director) stopped by, the mayor stopped by.

Everybody tries to spend their dollars around town to keep us going and give us moral support. When we were suffering with the COVID stay-home orders, they would come in often and say, “We’re working on trying to figure out a way to generate more business downtown.” Just knowing that they’re there for you and they’re thinking of you, that just helps.

4. What’s your favorite part about running your business?

I would say the people, the neighborhood, the community. When high schoolers come in raising money for their band trip or whatever, it’s great to be a business that can give back to the community because like I said, it’s a hand-in-hand partnership. The community helps me out and I’m able to turn around and help out the community.

When you’re doing festivals and markets and stuff, that’s totally different, that’s why it’s such a different business. You don’t even realize the aspects of being in the community, having people rely on you.

5. What are the must-see attractions in the area?

When they ask for places to eat in town, that’s always fun. I say, “What are you looking for?” If you’re looking for Italian, we’ve got Mangiare Italian Restaurant. We’ve got pizzas at Gilgamesh Brewing, and we’ve got Territory Restaurant at the Independence Hotel. I always talk up their brussels sprouts and bacon. That place is to die for, they’ve got such good food. The Naughty Noodle is really good. We have this really nice Thai place (Silk Thai Cuisine) now. There are a lot of food options now. I’m getting really excited about the Hi-Ho opening behind me.

6. From a visitor standpoint, what’s the appeal of Independence as a place to visit?

People love the whole atmosphere of downtown where you can just walk the sidewalks and see different things. They love Lisa’s place (Same As It Never Was Vintage) with her antiques and re-done furniture and stuff, she’s got such cute things. On Saturdays we have two farmer’s markets, the one in the park and the one in the bank parking lot, so people walk from one to the other right through our downtown.

One of the most fun things is our movie nights and music in the park. The park is amphitheater style, so you just bring your blankets and everything’s kid friendly and there’s always food trucks there and stuff. It really has that small town atmosphere.