Hirts take ownership of Aunt Belle’s Confectionary
Candy connoisseurs Bryan and Beth Hirt now own two candy stores in Park Rapids.
Bryan and Beth Hirt are concocting a delicious candy empire.
In mid-May 2022, they became the new owners of Aunt Belle’s Confectionary.
This is a mere year off their purchase of Cuzzins Candy Store, directly across the street, in 2021.
“It’s funny because Beth actually just came in here one time to buy turtles over Christmas and they were talking,” Bryan recalled. “All of a sudden, we got a call two weeks later.”
Ray and Karen Carlson offered to sell Aunt Belle’s to the Hirts. The Carlsons purchased the famous fudge shop in 2019.
Bryan said they hesitated, at first. After multiple conversations, the couple realized the two candy stores are markedly different from each other.
Gummies and taffies are top sellers at Cuzzins, he noted, while handmade fudge, caramel and chocolate treats appeal to Aunt Belle’s customers.
Bryan took a leave of absence from his teaching position at Century Middle School to manage both candy stores. Beth remains a physician’s assistant specializing in family medicine at Essentia Health, helping wherever she can with the businesses.
A 39-year tradition
With fudgey delectables made fresh daily in the storefront window and chocolatey scents wafting onto Main Avenue, Aunt Belle’s Confectionary is a well-established enterprise in Park Rapids.
Bryan said customers frequently comment, “Oh, I came here with my grandma” or “My mom used to work here.”
“It’s fun to talk and listen to those different stories and where people are from and why they come here,” he said.
Customers are even bringing in tantalizing goodies from candy shops around the state for the Hirts to sample and consider. For instance, someone shared chocolate-covered licorice.
“We did try it, and then we started doing it,” Bryan said. “It’s fun, that part of it, too.”
Bryan is thankful for Aunt Belle’s experienced staff.
“It was mostly hands-on learning for me,” Bryan said. “Luckily, when Ray left, all the staff stayed on. They taught me everything over the summer. And they’re still teaching me as we go. It’s so nice to have their knowledge and leadership.”
Bryan soon learned that holidays, like Christmas and Valentine’s Day, are especially filled with special requests. Orders are shipped nationwide.
He praised Beth for handling social media. “She’s the one researching and reaching out to other people to get new stuff into the store,” he added. “She looks and tries to find new candy.”
They are also partnering with local businesses, like with Park Rapids Floral to offer a package of chocolate with flowers.
The rear of the shop, called Grandpa’s Cabin, is dedicated to up-north gifts and decor. Local products are featured, such as Leah Bervig’s Bloom jewelry and the Little Dorset Shop’s notecards.
“We’re really trying to reach out to people around here that do awesome stuff. We like their product, so we’ll give you a platform,” Bryan said.
Their apparel is made by Kim May’s company, Adventures Up North. “But then we wanted to carry her line as well,” Bryan said of the printed mugs, sweatshirts and T-shirts.
Carly Helfrich, a Park Rapids graduate, makes cocktail infusion kits. Her products are now sold at Aunt Belle’s. “I coached her in swimming,” Bryan said.