A sweet tradition continues.
Beth and Bryan Hirt are the new owners of Cuzzins Candy Store.
“We both have full-time jobs that we’re not quitting,” Beth is quick to point out. It’s been a commonly asked question as word has spread about their endeavor.
Beth is a physician’s assistant specializing in family medicine at Essentia Health, while Bryan teaches math at Century Middle School.
A fresh, revamped store sign adorns the Main Street location in Park Rapids. They will also be offering their delectable treats on a smaller scale at Summerhill Adventures, north on U.S. Hwy. 71.
A family venture
Paul and Kay Pederson have owned the confectionery since 1995.
The store never really went up for sale, Beth explained, rather it gradually came about through casual conversations between the two families over the past year and a half. The Hirts knew the Pedersons because Kay babysat their children.
When Paul felt ready to sell in February 2021, “I guess we were just the right people at the right time,” Beth said.
“Paul is so great because he’s really going to help us through,” she said of their mentor, who plans to advise the couple through this first summer. “It’s been his baby for 25 years. He wants to see it succeed, too.”
Beth dug into the store’s history and discovered that two cousins – Kathy Seifert and Greg Hol – purchased it from Bob Fake it in 1973. Fake had owned the shop for the previous seven years.
“At that time, it was called Kissin’ Cuzzins Candy Store, and when the Seifert/Hol families took over, they decided, since they were all really cousins, that they would drop the ‘kissing’ title,” Beth reports.
Earnings from the candy store were saved for college tuition.
When Kathy and Greg graduated from high school, they sold it to their younger siblings, Jim Seifert and Mary Hol, who owned it from 1975 to 1995. Their parents were the landlords.
“Each May, the cousins would go to the bank and take out a loan for the inventory. Jim was 17 the first summer he owned it,” Beth said.
The families concentrated on the cousin connection and paying for college.
When the Pedersons purchased the store, they had the same goal.
And now the Hirts share that identical purpose.
“The more I learn, the more I realize how close this story is to ours,” Beth said.
Carter, their oldest child, will be 14 in July. Brady is 12, Lauren 9 and Maggie 7.
“We honestly have workers through the next 15 years. They have hired all of their friends,” Beth said.
Her brother, Aaron Morris, lives in Park Rapids. Three of his five kids will work at Cuzzins Candy Store this summer, renewing that cousin connection.
“We are really excited to teach them life skills, which is dealing with people – sometimes difficult people – working, earning a living and paying for your college tuition,” Beth said.
Bryan agreed, saying he’s excited about the time they’ll spend together as a family, teaching their kids the value of working and interacting with the community.
“Being in a candy store is every kid’s dream,” he said.
The Hirts are keeping all the old-time favorites but adding a few treats, like Paul Bunyan Logs and Loonies, plus a few secret surprises.
She is a Park Rapids High School graduate. “I grew up here. I remember Cuzzins being Cuzzins,” she said. “I don’t want to change the fun of it. It is a childhood memory.”
The red gingham tablecloths and old-fashioned wooden buckets, filled to the brim with sugary treats, will stay.
The Hirts plan to update the cash register with Apple Square. Some minor redecoration may occur over time.
Bryan praised the Pedersons for managing the store so well and giving employees responsibility. “He did an amazing job, starting it, keeping it going, getting customers in.”
“He deserves a lot of credit for making Cuzzins what it is,” Beth agreed.
The shop reopens on Memorial Day weekend, closing on Labor Day.