Bill Bittar.Posted by
Donelle Toner always had a sweet tooth. While growing up in Trumbull, her favorite candy was the Skybar, a chocolate bar with sections filled with peanut butter, caramel and marshmallow. When hosting tea parties with her friends, Toner makes homemade dark and white chocolate truffles. Her love of sweets is something she shares with her husband Michael.
"My husband and I enjoy going to Zagat rated restaurants, especially for the desserts," Toner said with a smile. "We both have discriminating pallets for sweets."
Toner is opening Grandma Josie's, a new candy shop at Clock Tower Square in Monroe, 477 Main Street.
"My grandma started her second career at 68-years-old," Toner said. "She was trained on the computer and worked at the Bridgeport Police Department for 20 years, retiring at 89. So this is my second career and I named it after her."
Toner was a longtime teacher in the Milford school system. Over the course of her career, she served as an enrichment teacher for second and third graders, was a library media specialist, wrote school music productions and started a drama club.
Last Friday, Toner sat in a foldout chair inside her empty storefront at Clock Tower Square. A lot of work still needed to be done in hopes of a late January opening — just in time for Valentine's Day.
A Pergo floor will be put in and custom wooden shelves are being built. When Grandma Josie's is fully renovated, Toner said it will have containers for nostalgic candy from nearly every decade from the '20's on up. The shop will have a piano for sing-a-longs and a party area in the back.
Partnerships & Candy Buffets
Toner has talked to area business owners about teaming up for packages such as a discount for women to go to a nail salon with their friends, then to Grandma Josie's for a candy buffet.
Chaves Bakery, also at Clock Tower Square, has talked about baking Disney theme cakes for princess parties hosted by Grandma Josie's. So far, The Rustic Grille on Main Street agreed to make pizza pies for parties at the candy shop and Toner wants to have Irish step dancing with a green candy buffet in March.
Aside from children's parties, Toner said Grandma Josie's could host adult events such as small baby showers.
"I'm reaching out to the community and letting people know I'm there for them," Toner said.
Bring On the Fun
Toner hosts tea parties at her home, where women wear hats and she breaks out the finger sandwiches, the fine china and her homemade truffles.
"I do make fudge," she said. "I make candy for family and friends. My friends, they always knew my dream was to own my own business."
However, Toner will not make her own chocolates at Grandma Josie's. Instead, she plans to stock her shelves with the best chocolates she knows: Lake Champlain Chocolates in Burlington, Vt., and Mill Fudge Factory in Bristol, N.H.
Toner said Lake Champlain Chocolates has "the biggest truffle I ever had. They're delicious. They melt in your mouth. They gave me samples and they didn't last long."
She said Mill Fudge's fudge is "not gritty". It's "very smooth and not sickeningly sweet", "a very good flavor comes out".
Grandma Josie's will also have sugar free candy, gluten free candy and health bars like Kashi bars.
Having grown up close to the Monroe town line, Toner said she is excited about opening her shop on Main Street.
"I thought I'd bring a little fun to the area," she said. "Whenever you see candy, it's a fun happy time."