When construction began in early January on the Sweetly Kismet Candy Store in Carlton, the economy was still booming and the word “coronavirus” had yet to overshadow nearly all aspects of life in the U.S.

Owners John and Ashley Parrott of Wright started organizing the financing in September for the 4,800-square-foot candy store on Highway 210 behind the Kwik Trip and broke ground in early January. While the building isn’t visible from the highway, the Parrotts positioned the building — and its 4-foot by 40-foot sign on the roof — to be seen by motorists on I-35. It also gave them a place to expand as the business grows, according to Ashley.

As the building was beginning to take shape in late February and early March, the nation was paralyzed by the COVID-19 outbreak, with Gov. Tim Walz closing all non-essential businesses. Minnesota’s unemployment rate was nearly 10% in May, more than triple the rate in January when construction started.

What’s more, because of shortages and shipping problems, the Parrotts have already had problems stocking their shelves. Some orders arrived with less than a quarter what was ordered, Ashley, 35, said. Even with the shortages — and some still bare shelves — the couple has more than 350 types of bulk candy, as well as packaged sweets, jerky and 75 varieties of specialty soda.

“We didn’t know if businesses were going to be able to open or if they even would,” John, 39, said. “The stress of it was the worst — starting a business and investing time, money and energy. We didn’t know if we’d have customers to sell too.”

Adversity is nothing new to the Parrotts, who have overcome a number of personal problems over the past several years. About two years ago, a fire started in the kitchen of their home in Wright at about 2:30 a.m. The kitchen was severely damaged and there was smoke damage throughout their home, but fortunately neither Ashley, John or their three kids were injured.

“The firefighters said that if we were in the house for five more minutes, we could have all just died,” Ashley said. “It kind of put a new perspective on life for us.”

Like other crises in their lives, the Parrotts relied on the thing that’s guided for many years — their faith.

“John and I have been through some really tough things in the past,” Ashley said. “So when it came to this it was just something we relied heavily on God for. He’s taken care of us through every other situation we’ve been presented with and we really had to have faith that this was going to happen and it’s worked out beautifully.”

Sweetly Kismet opened Friday, June 26, and Ashley estimated between 2,500 and 3,000 people came into the shop over its first three days of business. The Parrotts, their family and the staff at the store spent many days working long hours to get it ready to open before the July 4 holiday — many nights leaving after midnight as the opening date came closer.

Patrons browse the offerings at the Sweetly Kismet Candy Store in Carlton. Owner Ashley Parrott estimated up to 3,000 people visited the store on its opening weekend June 26-28. (Jamey Malcomb / Pine Journal)
Patrons browse the offerings at the Sweetly Kismet Candy Store in Carlton. Owner Ashley Parrott estimated up to 3,000 people visited the store on its opening weekend June 26-28. (Jamey Malcomb / Pine Journal)

The Parrotts’ faith even showed up in the name of their store.

“Kismet actually means ‘meant to be’ or ‘God’s will,’” she said. “We basically felt the reason why we're here is because of everything else that has happened in our personal lives and our spiritual lives ... We just felt if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be and that’s how ‘Kismet’ came about.”