By CHRISTINA O’HAVER
The Union Democrat
John Ogle walked into the Candy Vault in downtown Sonora to buy a gift basket in late May and less than three months later, he and his wife were buying the shop.
The Candy Vault on Washington Street has been satisfying the sweet tooths of locals and tourists since it opened three years ago, but when a “for sale” sign went up in the window in the spring, customers feared it would close.
“We thought, what a shame that this kind of business could potentially leave the area,” John Ogle said. “The store has a wonderful charm and such great potential that we couldn’t help but to buy it.”
Longtime Tuolumne County resident John Ogle and his wife, Brandi, have owned Mountain Oasis Water since July 2006. Brandi Ogle, a fifth-generation native of the area, worked for a local appraiser for more than 10 years and was ready for a change that would allow her to tap into her creative side.
The couple said they never questioned whether or not to own a second business, but they were looking for the right one to purchase.
The Candy Vault first opened when Bay Area contractor Greg Saler and his wife Stacey, a mortgage wholesaler, moved to Sonora in search of new work after the housing market collapsed.
Saler told The Union Democrat less than a year after he and his wife opened the shop that they had always wanted to move to Sonora and decided to head to the Mother Lode instead of waiting for the housing market to improve in the Bay Area.
The couple found out the building at 42 South Washington Street was for sale and fell in love with it.
“It kind of said candy store to me, with its high tin ceilings and copper doors” Saler said. “It seemed like a good fit.”
They believed candy would be immune to the recession because it is an affordable comfort food, Saler said.
The couple, who recently moved to Groveland, named the shop for the vault in the back of the store — a remnant from when the building housed a First National Bank.
The vault is now a shrine to the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. A Wonka mural is painted on the left wall of the tiny room, and black and white photos from the movie adorn the other. A flat screen TV mounted on the back wall plays the classic candy film, and an old-fashioned wheeled popcorn cart stands in the corner.
John Ogle said he will spend most of his time running Mountain Oasis Water but Brandi Ogle will be at the shop most days. Their 15-year-old son, John Michael Ogle, will also help out with the store.
The couple does not plan to make many significant changes to the shop. They said they will add a party room, an Icee machine and an M&M’S line — a row of containers filled with various types of M&M’S — to complement the existing Jelly Belly line.
They will also be extending the shop’s business hours, adding that part of the store’s draw is that it is open when nearby shops are closed.
Brandi Ogle said that since they took over the store, more than half of the store’s business has come from tourists.
“We have that window appeal that draws tourists in,” John Ogle said. Adding to the store’s early 1900s-era exterior are giant rainbow lollipops hanging in the window, Candyland board games embellishing the walls and oversized jelly beans dangling from the ceiling.
Brandi Ogle expects local traffic to pick up once people realize the store is not closing — a concern expressed by many customers. The shop will still stock customer favorites such as nostalgic candy, novelty treats, fine chocolates, ice cream, old fashioned sodas and novelty toys.
The couple said customers thank them daily for purchasing the shop and that the downtown merchants have also been welcoming and supportive.
“Since becoming business owners, we have come to appreciate how the local businesses work together and support each other,” John Ogle said.