The Cohen Brothers Suit Store on Capitol Street served the people of Jackson for nearly a century, but the space that once housed the business sat vacant for many years. However, over the last few weeks, passersby may have noticed a more colorful kind of merchandise than gray suit coats in the storefront.
Since Valentine's Day, Sugar Ray's Sweet Shop has occupied that space. Brightly colored candies line clear shelving on the either side of the front door. A glass case at the register houses a collection of truffles, with pretzels and more sitting on top.
Elizabeth Augustine, who is from Lake Charles, La., moved here five years ago to be near family. She said she saw that J&J Hospitality Group, which owns Sugar Ray's, needed help with marketing for the new business, so she jumped onboard as the shop's social-media manager earlier this year.
The JFP recently talked to Augustine over the phone about her journey to Sugar Ray's, the business itself and its place in the landscape of a changing downtown Jackson.
How did Sugar Ray's get started?
Our owners ... found this amazing property downtown, and they really wanted to try to revitalize an old building. (They kept) the bones of it, and they have all the original flooring and everything for the candy store. They didn't exactly know what they wanted in there, but ... it had open windows and white walls, and they thought it would be beautiful for a candy store.
What made you want to work for a business like Sugar Ray's?
I thought it was a neat concept, ... (and) I've never really explored downtown Jackson before the candy store. I never really had a need to go down there, but (now) I think it's an amazing place that could be so much better with more businesses and things like that, and I really felt passionate about that, and I'm telling everyone, "Oh my gosh, you should come; y'all should open places down here." The owners are great. They are very selfless and love to encourage people to use their passions to start their own business. I love that about them. ... And (Sugar Ray's) is just really a neat concept, and everyone loves candy, so it wouldn't be that hard to sell.
Where does Sugar Ray's get its candy?
We get them all from vendors usually in the South. ... We have some sweet-tea pops that are made in the South. We use some local things, like we have Mississippi Cold Drip Coffee (& Tea Co.), which is made in midtown Jackson, so really just all around. ... We use Thimblepress, which is right down the street. We have a lot of their (confetti) push pops and cards, so we try to highlight local as much as we can. ... We have a lot of different specialty items, like our truffles are our most popular seller. We have Italian cream cake (truffles), mimosa truffles, so we have a lot of adult candy and truffles. We have margarita candy, we have whiskey cordials, we have merlot truffles, so things that kind of are a play on alcohol, so the adults can enjoy things as well as the kids. And then probably once a month, we do a wine or Champagne tasting at the store, just to try to draw the adult crowd, to let them know that (Sugar Ray's) is also for adults. ... We do have an old-school candy section, where we have old-school candies like candy cigarettes and Pop Rocks, and like, old-school sodas in the glass bottles. That's a pretty neat thing that we do.
How has the response been since opening the candy store?
It's been really amazing. Most people are just so shocked that there's something so unique downtown, like this specialty candy store that you don't really see in a lot of places. People have really flocked to it. People really, really love that we are downtown, and people are helping restore downtown and get businesses over there, so a lot of (them) have come for that reason—to help support, to grow downtown.
Why do you think it is important to restore a place like downtown?
I think that downtown has so many amazing elements, like the older elements—everything is from the '50s, things like that. ... All the buildings have character, and they're all unique in their own way. ... West Capitol Street, or really (all of) downtown is great. It has amazing buildings. People just have to go in and restore them and make them amazing again, and I think it will grow (to) how (busy) it used to be.
I feel like that could take a while, but it seems like ever since you guys opened that candy store, I've noticed a few other businesses popping up, too.
Yes, and then, they have the (Capitol) Art Lofts right beside us, so that is going to be a big business right there. I think that will help bring a lot of people downtown. ... I think that that will encourage other people to open businesses down there. If it's a more popular spot, people will definitely try to seek out those buildings.
I've heard rumor that there is going to be something in the back of the candy store.
I can just say to keep a look out for other things that will be popping up in the space.
Sugar Ray's Sweet Shop (224 W. Capitol St., 601-955-2916) is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, find the business on Facebook and Instagram.