The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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December 8, 2012

Volunteers join to sweeten holiday for ‘candy man’

JOHNSTOWN — The Candy Store has seen better days.

Dwindling stock and fewer customers over the years have placed the Market Street penny candy store in jeopardy of closing.

But a hardy group of volunteers on Saturday vowed to keep the shop open.

More than 25 men and women from the Mommy’s Club Garage Sale group turned out to clean and stock the bare shelves. The group is a network of hundreds of local moms and volunteers.

“We want to make the place amazing again,” Mommy’s Club founder Lisa Kozich said. “The candy shop holds a special place in our hearts.”

Bill Felix opened a small Franklin Street shop in 1978. Several other candy shops followed. Only the Market Street shop remains open, barely clinging to life.

Volunteers, many of whom visited the shop as youngsters, filled the shelves with bubble gum, Tootsie Pops, popcorn, Twizzlers, gobs and much more.

They scrubbed away dust from glass shelves, scraped chewing gum off the floor and mopped away dirt.

“It’s amazing and completely unexpected,” Felix said. “I want to stay in business. This is my town.”

Felix is coy about his age and the number of years he has been selling candy.

He joked that Attila the Hun and Moses were some of his earliest customers.

During the cleanup, someone uncovered what is believed to be Felix’s birth certificate.

The date was May 6, 1935.

“That was a major find,” said Melissa Komar of Johnstown. “It’s something he may need some day.”

Shorty’s Italian Smokehouse, a West Hills pizza and rib restaurant, donated a mini refrigerator and pizza for the volunteers Saturday. An “open” sign was provided with the help of Lowes.  

“My parents used to bring me here,” said Beckie Fetsko of Windber. “I wanted to come back and see it.”

She arrived with her mother and son, Riley Fetsko.

Riley recalled visiting the store one day with his grandfather.

“I remember a little thing that had pamphlets on it from DelGrosso Amusement Park,” said Riley, 12.

“They had added some new rides. It brings back memories of that one day.”

Kozich said her friend, Candice Thomas of Johnstown, made her aware of the candy man’s plight.

Thomas said her mother works in the bakery at Ideal Market and often sees Felix when he buys coffee and donuts.

“One day he mentioned that he had less then one dollar in his pocket and wasn’t able to buy coffee,” Thomas said. “She gave him a few dollars.”

On Saturday, the good Samaritans decorated the store front for Christmas and added furniture to an apartment in the rear of the store, where Felix lives.

Donations will be used to purchase candy from Blair Candy Co. Inc. in Altoona to keep the shelves at Felix’s shop full, Kozich said.

“We want to make people aware that he’s still here,” she said.

Those wishing to donate can send an email to lkozich@gmail.com.

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