Mention a family business in Martinsville, and people know where to go — Sweet Heaven Candy Shop, owned and operated by Joe and Shalita Armstrong and their four children, ages nine to 24. When the Longwood SBDC joined the family team, it was a natural fit.
“The Martinsville paper did a story about us before we had our grand opening in February 2021, so the community knew about us,” Shalita says. “It was raining like crazy that day, and the power went out, but the community turned out for us.”
Like pop rocks, a nostalgic candy the shop offers, Sweet Heaven continues to enjoy those bursts of community enthusiasm. Shalita credits business analyst Michael Scales for much of their success.
“In May 2020 my husband was diagnosed with COVID-19, and the whole family quarantined,” she explains. “We used that time to plan. That’s when we connected with the SBDC and Michael Scales.”
A candy shop was a far right turn from Shalita and Joe’s day jobs; she’s a registered nurse and Joe was in the furniture industry. The plan was for Joe to run the shop while Shalita continued nursing. Once a building in a nearby shopping center was secured, the family got to work.
“We had a lot of family members helping,” Shalita relates. “Joe built the shelves, and we found equipment on Facebook Marketplace. Jordan, our oldest son, traveled to South Carolina and Tennessee to pick up large equipment and furniture. Once the shop opened, Triston, the youngest, ran the register — we call him the boss.”
Michael Scales pitched in with business know-how and encouragement.
“I couldn’t tell you all the things he’s done,” Shalita adds. “He helped with a business plan, researched competitors and helped us secure a business name. He still pops in to help.”
It was Michael who assisted the Armstrongs in securing a location in Uptown Martinsville.
“We’re excited about the move,” Shalita says. “We’ll have more space for children’s parties and events, and we plan to expand our menu.”
Gary’s corner, a section of the shop Shalita dedicated to her brother who died in 2020, will also be featured in Sweet Heaven’s new location.
“Gary always encouraged us, so we added this display of his favorite candies,” Shalita says.
As their business continues to grow, the Armstrongs look forward to working with the SBDC.
“I recommend the SBDC to every business owner,” Shalita concludes. “It’s good to have someone like Michael to keep us on track. We’re truly grateful for everything the SBDC has done for us.”