Wayne’s Candy Co.: Inside Memphis’ hidden Halloween ‘candy mecca’
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Halloween is just around the corner, and some shoppers say there isn’t a better place to stock up for the holiday than a hidden warehouse in Downtown Memphis that’s been selling candy for 70-plus years.
“It’s almost like we are the best-kept secret in Memphis,” said Gary Wilkes, current president of Wayne’s Candy Company.
Wayne’s Candy Company has been family-run since Wayne Wilkes opened it up in 1947.
A little shop that initially meant to supply individuals but turned into a booming business that sells to individual buyers and local retailers.
Agustus Alexas, an auto mechanics teacher at Whitehaven High School, has been coming to Wayne's Candy Company for more than 20 years.
"For years I worked at an automotive shop down the street from here, and on Fridays, we would come down to Wayne's and pick up different candies and different sweets for the weekend," said Alexas.
Now his favorite memory is bringing his wife in to pick up candy.
"We come down and pick up long boys, candy lipsticks or chico sticks," said Alexas.
"People are usually in a good mood when they are buying candy. It's not like something you have to talk people into or make sure they need an item, they want it anyway, so that's kinda cool," said Wilkes.
Jeffery Mills has been a regular at Wayne's for almost 28 years.
"First thing, there is nothing like having a selection, second to none selection, price, and friendly atmosphere," said Mills.
With more than 2,500 types of candies to choose from at their one location, it's easy to see why people keep coming back.
First-time Wayne's customer Charlie Covington, a family care coordinator at Mid-South Transplant, came to Wayne's because of the selection that will fill the event his company does for hospitals.
"Overwhelming, I didn't know what to pick," he said. "Personally, I wanted to grab some for myself, but just trying to look and narrow down what to take with you, everything looks good."
The prices were another reason why Covington says they chose to come to Wayne's.
"If you can't find it here I don't know if you could find it anywhere, to be honest with you," Covington said.
To keep the cost down, Wayne's Candy buys large shipments from suppliers.
"Sixty-thousand pounds of Tootsie Rolls were in here on October 1, and shortly after that, we received 40,000 pounds of Albert's Chews in addition to whatever we had in the inventory," said Wilkes.
If you look at the entrance of the building on 164 E. Carolina Ave. you don't realize how big the building is.
"It's sort of an optical illusion, we have a pretty nice size showroom, but we have five buildings that we have stuff stored in," Wilkes said .
The warehouses have state-of-the-art insulation with multiple backup generators to be sure they stay constant temperature no matter what happens.
Wilkes loves seeing people come into his store to get anything from snow cone flavoring to pickles — always a top-rated seller — to novelty candies.
Alexas said he often comes down to pick up some of those pickles and peppermint sticks for his mom.
"I think their dill pickles are a little more dilly than anyone else's and their peppermint sticks are little more pepperminty than any other peppermint I think that's why they come down for pickles and peppermint sticks," Alexas said .
According to Wilkes, the pickle and peppermint combinations is a Memphis tradition.
"My mom takes the peppermint sticks and pushes it down in the middle of the pickle and nibbles on it," Alexas explained .
For these loyal customers, whether it's a 40-cent bag of potato chips or a $4,000 candy order, Wayne's is the place to go.
"It's the candy mecca of Memphis, " said Alexas. "A lot of people go online and look for these things but it's right here under our nose."