Gen-X in a Millennial World: New local store perfect for candy buffets at child parties

Less perfect for diabetes-avoiding adults

By Genevieve A. Suzuki

Who knew fat could unite a community?

Ever since my last column in which I revealed that I was losing weight to avoid developing Type 2 diabetes, friends and family have reached out to me to let me know I’m not alone. People have shared tips and their own challenges in an effort to encourage me along my journey. And for this warm show of aloha, I am immensely grateful.

So it may surprise you that this column is about none other than candy.

Many of you may be rolling your eyes and muttering under your breath (because that’s where all great muttering is done), “She said she was going to make it a priority to lose weight and now she’s yammering on about candy?! Sheesh!”

Candy Pros owner Nena Hallak stands in front of the mural of Willy Wonka painted inside her store in Grossmont Center. (Photo by Genevieve A. Suzuki)

Candy Pros owner Nena Hallak stands in front of the mural of Willy Wonka painted inside her store in Grossmont Center. (Photo by Genevieve A. Suzuki)

But this sweet column is devoted to the one side of candy that isn’t tempting to my taste buds: It’s the decorative side of candy. The hugely popular candy buffet, to be exact.

I first saw a candy buffet done right at my husband Derek’s cousin’s wedding. Mike’s new bride, Sophia, is a talented event planner so it’s no surprise that she included a color-coordinated candy buffet for the guests. “I want to do this,” I said, deciding I would start trying to do candy buffets for my kids’ parties.

Sophia advised me to buy so many ounces per guest so that no one would go without treats on the way home. I realized quickly I needed to forget buying it at the supermarket or discount stores because doing so ran the bill way up. (Hey, a bag of multicolored M&Ms will run you more than three dollars; who knows how many you have to buy to get 1,000 green M&Ms! Don’t forget the sweat equity invested in picking out those green M&Ms and then “having” to eat all of the other colors.)

After a short Google search, I found Candy Pros, a local San Diego business that offered an extensive list of candies in bulk with cheaper, bulk prices. Walking into the National City warehouse several years ago, I was literally a kid in a candy store.

Boxes of M&Ms, candy bars, lollipops and candy toys lined the utilitarian shelves. There were colored gumballs, suckers and chocolate-coated candies in blue, yellow, red, pink, green and purple. There were Mexican candies and Japanese favorites. And at the end of the aisles, there were favor bags, tongs and scoopers to accessorize any candy buffet.

To say I fell in love with this candy mecca is an understatement so imagine my delight when I went to get our 1-year-old’s first hair cut at Kids Hair Salon in Grossmont Center only to discover Candy Pros opened a shop right next door! (OK, the bittersweet irony of this occurring after I swore off candy isn’t lost on me, either.) While I’ve thankfully kicked my personal candy addiction, I still love a good candy buffet and owner Nema Hallak satisfies that craving.

Hallak, born and raised in La Mesa, decided to open a shop in her hometown in an effort to appease candy buffet lovers like myself. Her sister owns Candy Pros LLC’s online store and the family owns and operates the warehouse.

The first thing you see in Hallak’s store is a funky Johnny Depp-version of Willy Wonka on the back wall. As with the warehouse, shelves are lined with color-coordinated candies, but Hallak’s store clearly caters to customers with candy buffet dreams. Glass containers are neatly on display as is a rainbow selection of favor bags and boxes.

Candy islesHallak acknowledges the excellent timing of it all. “The candy buffet trend got big so we got big,” she said.

Open since mid-May, Hallak said she still doesn’t carry everything offered at the warehouse. “If you want something from the warehouse, let me know and I can get it for you,” she said.

Hallak also admits it’s good to be near Chuck E. Cheese and a kids’ hair salon, except when hapless parents walk in, assuming they’ll be able to get a piece of candy for their crying tots.

“There are two reactions,” she chuckled. “They either get kind of mad about having to buy so much of it or they are happy to have found us for their candy buffets.”

—Genevieve A. Suzuki is a La Mesa resident who practices family law. Visit her website at

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