5 December 2023

A lolly shop for grown-ups: Kanahooka store stocks nostalgia galore

| Zoe Cartwright
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Pam and Ric Cann

Pam and Ric Cann, with shop assistant Harry, at their lolly shop in Kanahooka. Photos: Zoe Cartwright.

If you walk into Fairyland Confectionary – also known as ‘The Licorice Shop’ in Kanahooka – you’ll be instantly transported to another time.

Row after row of brightly coloured lollies, chocolates and licorices line the shelves.

Some you won’t have seen since the last time you were at the school canteen, however long ago that was.

Others you might have only come across on travels overseas – the shop’s owners, husband and wife team Ric and Pamela Cann, keep a well-stocked section of Dutch and British treats.

There are sugar-free and gluten-free versions of many favourites, so if you have diabetes or a gluten intolerance you can still enjoy a sweet treat.

Some you won’t ever have tasted, unless you’ve been to the shop before.

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“Try this one,” beams Ric.

“It’s called chilli cola, but there’s no chilli in it. It gets a kick from the cinnamon, and if you chew on it, the parsley will release its chlorophyll.

“Then, towards the end, you’ll begin to taste the cola.”

The chewy sweet includes lemon and herbs, and is absolutely delicious.

Ric came up with the unique flavour combination, made with raw ingredients, many years ago, to help settle the stomachs of pregnant customers.

It’s since been a hit with a variety of customers, especially travellers on cruises, who once upon a time made up the bulk of Pam and Ric’s trade.

The dynamic duo have been in the sweets business for more than 20 years, and started out selling chocolates from their stall at The Rocks Market in Sydney.

The Licorice Shop has row after row of brightly-coloured sweet treats

The Licorice Shop has row after row of brightly coloured sweet treats, from chocolates to Scottish tablet, licorice to lollies.

On an outing to Floriade with their grandchildren they saw how the kids gravitated to long straps of brightly coloured licorice, and decided to expand their inventory.

As time went on, they shifted to lollies entirely, and enjoyed their spot at the markets, meeting customers from all around the world.

Pam says despite what people may think at first glance, the store caters more to adults than to children, mostly because we’re all secretly big kids anyway.

“We sample very generously, and when people are eating something it often brings back a memory that has nothing to do with what they’re sampling,” she says.

“So it’s very nostalgic. We have people come back again and again to get things that remind them of things they had as a child.”

The stall was a hit with young and old.

Then, COVID struck. The couple remember serving some of the first customers off the Ruby Princess, and the slow realisation that something wasn’t quite right – a mention of illness here, a rumour about deep cleaning there.

“We put on masks – I think we must have been the first people in Sydney to do that,” Ric remembers.

“People were making fun of us, but we knew something was wrong.”

Lockdowns, reduced tourism and new health measures meant the market stall couldn’t continue.

They shifted online for a time, and when restrictions began to ease the couple started to look around for a shopfront.

Initially they planned to move further up the coast, but by chance came down to visit one of their children in Kanahooka.

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There was an empty storefront across from the lake, with a beautiful park. It seemed like the obvious choice.

It wasn’t smooth sailing from there – COVID lockdowns continued. The couple still work seven days a week.

The store is now brightly decorated with the light displays Ric loves, and he buzzes about singing to himself as he restocks the shelves – they’ve just got in Red Bulls especially for a neighbor who’s partial to them.

They also make a mean cup of coffee.

Many of their overseas customers from their market stall days remain devoted to the couple. Pam is in the midst of filling out a number of Christmas orders from them.

She reflects on why they’ve stayed in business despite the long hours and the curveballs of the past few years.

“We love what we do, and Ric has to keep working, he can’t stop,” she laughs.

“We’ve always worked hard, and at our age most people sit at home, watching TV or maybe doing a bit of gardening.

“But we enjoy having contact with people, and this is a run-on from the markets where we had people from everywhere.

“It’s a good reason to get up in the morning!”

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