Vassar rides road toward ‘Candyland’ ice cream shop

Vassar Candyland
The staff at Candyland. Owner Betty Burley is second from left.

VASSAR — Few children, perhaps, are happier than Abigail and Luke Powell about the June 24 opening of an ice cream and candy store in downtown Vassar.

When Candyland Ice Cream and Gifts opens at 194 E. Huron Ave. inside the former Cone Zone, the Powells’ mother, Marshelle Powell, will sell her artistic glassware inside the business owned by Betty Burley and Michael Burns.

But Abigail, 7, and Luke, 3, also have a pipeline to Candyland.

“They’re very excited because we actually live at the end of the Rail Trail that travels into (downtown) Vassar, and we’ve been riding our bikes on it almost every day,” said Marshelle Powell, 31, of Tuscola Township, whose husband is Nick Powell.

Powell is one of the artists and entrepreneurs Burley, of Tuscola County’s Watertown Township, has included in what she calls a “Made in Michigan” section inside the store.

“I think it’s amazing she’s doing (the section) with local people, too,” Powell said.

While the store features soft-serve ice cream and 16 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream, Burley said “It’s not just an ice cream store. We’re going to have candy, and T-shirts, too.”

Burley calls June 24-26 her “grand opening weekend,” when her business features special prices and gives away two admission tickets to Cedar Point amusement park on June 24 and two more on June 25.

Burley, leasing her business location from building owner Ron Anderson of Lapeer County, said she likes the fact there’s no ice cream store in downtown Vassar. Two other stores – Sweet Cakes Cakery and Rebel Soul women’s clothes and accessories store – have opened in the past few months on the same one-block stretch of Huron Avenue (M-15) where Burley proposes her store.

Burley, 44, a graduate of Oscoda High School, plans to sell nachos, hot dogs and Coney dogs at her business, too.

“One of my specialties is I’ve had to turn businesses around over the years,” Burley said. “I’m looking to come to Vassar and stay. I want to be involved and do whatever I can with the school. Give coupons that could be awarded to the ‘Student of the Month,’ maybe.

“Say the basketball team needs to raise money, we can do a fundraiser (at the business) that day.”

Burley said a friend “came up with a really good idea where we’ll get some little backpacks and put some pencils inside, and add some coupons and we’ll drop off five or 10 of those backpacks at the school each month.”

Burley said she hopes to contact Vassar Public Schools officials and make her business available for fundraising events by sports teams or school groups.

“If they want to do it on a Tuesday, when it’s a slow day for me, all my sales of ice cream that day, we’ll give back 20 percent or 10 percent,” Burley said. “(Players) have all their friends and family come in, and they’re going to get money back, and it’s going to help me at the same time.”

Burley said she managed a United Dairy Farmers gas station, convenience store and ice cream parlor in Ohio for 12 years.

“I’ve managed Subways, too, but I’m tired of making everybody else money,” Burley said. “I just want to make myself money – you know what I mean?”

Candyland Ice Cream and Gifts employs five workers, including Burley and her daughter, Nichole Wheaton, along with Alex Blackmer, Kailey Shaver and Miranda Gentner.

Burley said she’s no stranger to retail jobs, having worked a variety of them as a young mother.

“I had four children and I had a husband who was an airplane mechanic, and I couldn’t go to school because I had four kids,” Burley said. “My first job, I was a gas station clerk.

“I just took all the experience I could get, and I’m glad I did. It was all hands-on.”

As owner of Vassar’s newest business, however, she’ll realize the revenue instead of merely collecting it.

“It’s time for me to have my own business,” Burley said, “and this is my second chance at life.”

Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at gilchrist@tcadvertiser

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