The Scene

Hey Sweetie in Ottawa boasts lots of sweets, treats and memories

Downtown candy/ice cream shop to host grand opening Saturday

Stephanie and Sam Cato, shown dispensing an ice cream treat for a lucky customer, have opened Hey Sweetie, a candy and ice cream shop located at 203 W. Main St. in Ottawa.

The Hey Sweetie candy and ice cream shop in Ottawa has been open for less than a month, and it’s already in contention for being the happiest place.

The new sweet store, located at 203 W. Main St. in Ottawa, is owned and operated by Stephanie and Sam Cato and boasts just about every kind of sweet one could want, including ice cream.

“Who walks into a candy store and gets mad?” Stephanie Cato said with a laugh. “You have to be happy in a candy story. Even if you don’t buy anything and are looking around, there’s so much memorabilia [and] candies from our childhoods. You have to be happy and smile.”

Nostalgia beams from old standards such as Bit O’Honeys, Sweettarts, Necco Wafers, Nerds and Pop Rocks to Laffy Taffys, Swedish Fish and a passel of different flavors of hard-candy sticks and suckers.

There are several flavors of bagged popcorn, a wide variety of candy bars such as Hershey’s, Milky Ways and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and even gourmet pretzels and an assortment of handmade chocolate truffles sold by the piece or in small bags. The latter was a big hit on Mother’s Day.

There also are 10 different flavors of ice cream available, ready for scooping onto a cone or into a dish. There is a plan in place to eventually add items such as sundaes to the ice cream menu, but that will come down the line.

“One day we’re selling a lot of ice cream, then the next day it’s something else. You never know from day to day what will be the hot item,” said Stephanie Cato, a native of Seneca, where the couple now lives with their eight children. “We’ve been doing really well. The customers are excited that we’re here, and they’re coming to see us.”

The shop is open for pre-summer hours from 1 to 8 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 8 p.m. Sundays. It is open for the initial Third Friday event this Friday and is planning its grand opening – with several surprises for the occasion – Saturday.

It also is available for special events for schools, birthdays, etc.

Stephanie Cato met Sam, a native of Sikeston, Missouri, almost 20 years ago when he had just been discharged from the U.S. Navy and moved to the area as he went to work for the Constellation Nuclear Plant.

We decided to do this, and like a month or six weeks later we opened because this space came available as we were making the decision. We knew it was the perfect space, so if we were gonna do it, we needed to go.”

—  Stephanie Cato, co-owner of Hey Sweetie

About five years ago, Stephanie left nursing and dabbled in retail, dealing in antique things, boutique home décor and clothing, but she always dreamed of having a pop-up store of her own.

By chance, she was walking through downtown Ottawa and noticed that in the area where so many year-round events take place – Main Street, the Jordan block, etc. – there was no venue selling ice cream and sweets on a consistent basis. She looked into it, and when the Main Street location became available, they jumped at the chance.

“It was a whirlwind,” Stephanie said. “We decided to do this, and like a month or six weeks later we opened because this space came available as we were making the decision. We knew it was the perfect space, so if we were gonna do it, we needed to go.

“It was a crazy month to get things ordered, but luckily I already had some accounts open where I could get some candy and things. … Shout out to Candy and Corn in Minooka and Raffy’s in New Lenox for all the help they gave us getting started with vendors and suppliers. That’s how we got the ball rolling.”

The biggest surprise for the owners was how many people enjoy the “gummy eyeballs,” but Sam agreed with Stephanie that the support they’ve received from friends, residents and repeat customers has been a big boost to their opening month.

The Ottawa Downtown Association also has been on hand to lend support.

“We’re very grateful for all the kindness we’ve received,” Stephanie said. “And though some might think this would be a seasonal business, we will be here all year long, and we’re looking forward to being a part of Ottawa for a long time.”

A new sweet shop, Hey Sweetie, in Ottawa opened the weekend of April 20 and 21.