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Candy store offers changes to menu to bolster business

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 10:45 a.m. CDT
(Bill Ackerman - backerman@shawmedia.com)
One solution to getting through the winter months for Berwyn's Rissi's Candy was to expand the menu beyond ice cream and candy like lunch items.
(Bill Ackerman - backerman@shawmedia.com)
Owner Tracy Balnis adds a pepper to a hot dog with the works. One solution to getting through the winter months for Berwyn's Rissi's Candy was to expand the menu beyond ice cream and candy to lunch items.

BERWYN – Rissi’s Old Time Candy and Toys added ice cream to its brand this year after the winter proved to be as frigid for the cash register as it was outside. After a spring that didn’t heat up sales and a summer that has so far not been spectacular, Rissi’s has added hot dogs to its offerings, too.

Rissi’s owner Tracy Balnis is nothing if not tenacious. She opened the store at 6834 Windsor Ave. in December 2012, offering nostalgic candy by the piece and bar, Filbert’s Soda and toys from a bygone era.

But it wasn’t quite enough to make the rent.

When Over the Rainbow Ice Cream Parlor on Windsor closed late last year, Balnis saw an opportunity to fill the void and began selling ice cream in the store. That was this past winter – one that won’t be soon forgotten for its heavy snow and frigid temperatures. Her pipes froze, and she was without water for five days.

“But I had no customers, so it didn’t really matter,” Balnis said.

Winter turned to spring, and by that time, Balnis said she was facing a decision.

“I almost shut the doors in April and May,” Balnis said.

But instead, she began searching for way to draw more customers into the store. Besides adding hot dogs, Balnis also has added giant soft pretzels, chili, tamale boats, and nachos to the store’s offerings. She also is serving esquites, a corn snack from northern Mexico, and mangonadas, a frozen mango treat. In the morning, she makes her own mini-doughnuts.

“Last week, it was surprising how many people came in for a hot dog,” Balnis said.

This winter she will be adding fresh-made soups to the menu.

Meanwhile, Balnis said she doesn’t want to stray too far away from her original concept of a nostalgic trip to a candy store of the past.

“I try very hard to make sure the experience is good,” she said. “But I don’t want to change the focus of the place.

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