MERIDIAN, IDAHO — We all know the Treasure Valley is huge when it comes to giving to others, but one candy shop in Meridian is giving something that most shops in the Treasure Valley haven't even thought of. Work experience and social interactions for those with special needs. In this week's Made in Idaho, we take you inside Sweet Zola's Candy Shop.
When you walk into Sweet Zola's, you won't just find a plethora of nostalgic treats, you'll be helped by a few of the most genuine, hard-working employees you'll ever meet.
"Sweet Zola's is a candy shop that employees all individuals with developmental disabilities, exclusively individuals with developmental disabilities. And they run the place, it's amazing!"exclaimed Sweet Zola's Candy Shop Owner Cyndy Radovich.
Open now for almost two years, Sweet Zola's opening came natural for someone with Cyndy's background.
"I'm a developmental specialist, I work with kiddos with behavioral difficulties in the community. I wanted a place where I could employ some of my clients and people very similar that have not been given chances to work within the community," said Radovich.
Awesome people like Jeff Wilson who has been an employee since opening day.
"This is my first, awesome job. I make sure everything is all clean and placed. You do the cash register, customer service, he does it all," said store employee Jeff Wilson.
But Jeff and all of the shop's employees earn way more than a pay check.
"I try to work with my employees to prepare them for future careers so they understand what bosses are going to ask for what coworkers are going to expect, and it's just kind of that preparation. Jeff was already on top of things when he came in, he's a hard worker. Huh? Yes! Yes, he's a really hard worker," laughed Radovich.
Cyndy hopes that her store model will encourage other shops to give opportunities to those who may need it more than others.
"It feels like something that should be happening all over and I know there's not enough awareness within the community so for me, i love it, I love coming into work every day, I love all of my employees. We have good days, we have bad days, but for me, I'm hoping that it raises awareness for the rest of the community," said Radovich.
And in case you're wondering where the name Sweet Zola's came from?
"My two-year-old daughter, who is now four years old, and i just thought what's sweeter than her? What is something that I love more than my daughter, and there's nothing," said Radovich.
When people learn about the mission behind Sweet Zola's Candy Shop, it's not hard to see why the Treasure Valley Community loves this Made in Idaho business.
Two years in a row where we've had to come up with rent, all twelve months of rent upfront just to stay in the space, and through community support alone, we came up with it," smiled Radovich.
"Being with Cyndy, she's wonderful. I love being here because of the community," said Wilson.
Sweet Zola's Candy Shop will actually be transitioning into a non-profit in December and moving into a bigger space in Boise. With such a small candy operation, they are always looking for a little extra help through the community and will host events and fundraisers from time to time. For more information, you can visit their Facebook page to help support this one-of-a-kind Treasure Valley business.