This week was apparently National Chocolate Week. Wednesday was Dessert Day, and Halloween is just around the corner. This may seem self-indulgent, but what reason DIDN’T we have to feature the finest independent sweet shops in Harrogate?
You know you want it – whether you need a gift, something to mark a celebration, somewhere to “forget” your kids for an hour while hitting the spa, or if you just want to indulge you’re sweet-tooth; these independents will satisfy you’re sugar-coated desires until you’re in some kind of coma.
Harrogate Traditional Sweet Shop:
With an original location in Helmsley and one opening up in Ripon shortly, Harrogate Traditional Sweet Shop has only been in the Oxford Street neighbourhood since the 8th of February of this year, although in that brief time they’ve already become an essential feature of the street.
The Traditional Sweet Shop is all about a good, friendly service and atmosphere. Simple principles, but they go a long way. Providing a range of retro sweets, their customers frequently recognise products from their childhood, unseen for years perhaps. There’s a strong sense of nostalgia and even legacy, as the old favourites of one generation become a new discovery for the next.
It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the sheer selection in this shop – nearly all the sweets are displayed in glass jars like a traditional shop of the 60’s; their sugar-coated exteriors providing all the visual advertisment needed. Taste-testings are present and encouraged; we’re treated to a sample of Mr. Fitzpatrick’s cordials, brewed in Lancashire and available in great variety in the shop.
Even with such an extensive stock, Harrogate Traditional Sweet Shop makes a great effort to follow the seasons with their sweets. A fruity summer season has passed, and they’re getting ready for the Christmas themes to take over, with a dash of spook in between, courtesy of Halloween.
With great selections come great and difficult choices, fortunately the Traditional Sweet Shop provide package deals for gifts and self-indulgence alike: themed pamper boxes and jars of retro sweets are available, as well as picking your own choices for gift bags. They’re open for custom designs, offer decorative pieces for weddings and other celebrations, and if there’s a sweet from your childhood you can’t find; just ask. They’ll supply it through their online service.
Ensuring that no one feels unwelcome in the shop, they offer a wide selection of vegeterian, gluten-free and even sugar-free sweets (now there’s some kind of irony). The sounds of musicals, Disney classics, children’s favourites and 60’s hit lists fill the shop day in and day out, ensuring a fantastical sense of much-welcomed escapism for adults, and a fairy-tale experience for children.
With a large amount of regulars visiting the shop as often as guilt allows, The Traditional Sweet Shop also offers loyalty cards. For sweets. Yep, you heard that right. At the end of the day, Harrogate Traditional Sweet Shop is a case of personality; a sweet presence in your day, handing candies out in front of the shop on Saturdays, gift baskets specially prepared with that one sweet you thought you’d never see again, and endless colours and shapes of mystery on the shelves, each with the promise of both new discoveries and fond nostalgia trips.
Mama Doreen’s Cupcake Emporium:
Even in the cold, grey light of a wet October afternoon, Mama Doreen’s Cupcake Emporium‘s exterior exudes a sunshine-spirit with a colour-coding akin to that of Willy Wonka’s factory. Entering the premises is very much an Alice in Wonderland experience, before our narrative falls apart as reality becomes more impressive than fantastical children’s literature.
It started 7 years ago; Jessica Bradley wasn’t pleased with the recession’s effects on her career, and decided to do something about it. Cupcakes, specifically. A niche enterprise quickly blossomed, as customers requesting services for weddings, birthdays, novelty cakes grew exponentially, and a supermarket swiftly pulled her into a lucrative contract.
While still providing excellent services to parties and companies alike, Jessica opened up Mama Doreen’s Cupcake Emporium on Cold Bath Road 3 years ago, providing a drop-in service of her products that one would do well to experience. The cupcakes are baked fresh every day in the downstairs bakery, and children are invited to decorate their own cakes. You can even attend an in-store tea party, hosted with their finest China (and there’s cordial in the tea pots).
The shop has an undeniable wow-factor: colours, shapes and the abundant presence of sugar-coated goodness guide you around the shelves and displays. Jessica tells us she wanted to create a beautiful space, experiences that might someday become a childhood memory.
Families greatly appreciate Mama Doreen’s services, there’s a sense of nostalgia to be found amongst adult clientelle, and strong potential for fond memories in the making in the younger generations.
Tea parties aside: Jessica’s cupcakes have developed a reputation to be reckoned with. The success of the business speaks for itself, not to mention the products on display. And we must mention that she’s one of two UK contestants to participate in the US Food Network-hosted Cupcake Wars. If that’s not some kind of Medal of Honour in the industry, we don’t know what is.
Mama Doreen’s is a legacy in the making. One the greatest experiences is having new customers asking for a wedding cake, then christening decorations, then an anniversary, Jessica tells us. As time goes on, she hopes that visits to Mama Doreen’s will be a fond childhood memory in the minds of many.
With so many artisan cupcakes to choose from, besides a selection of sweets threatening to give someone an epileptic seizure, a favourite is impossible. The sticky toffee sponge is perhaps their best trademark, exemplifying a healthy decadence of sticky toffee sponge with sticky toffee middle and fudge to complete the picture. Mama Doreen’s follows the seasons, of course: with autumn come wholesome notions of apple and cinammon, the summer may feature exotic fruits and currently the kitchen is full of eyeballs, in preparation of Halloween.
Farrah’s of Harrogate:
Overlooking the exquisite roundabout of Montpellier Parade, Farrah’s of Harrogate welcome all and sundry to experience the delights of that gem we know and love as The Original Harrogate Toffee.
Started by John Farrah in 1840, the toffee came in part as a result of Harrogate’s water: well-renowned as a spa town; the unfortunate taste of sulphur in the water was to be combatted with this delectable toffee and its unique qualities of citrus. Today, health and safety codes ensure the quality of drinking water, however Farrah’s of Harrogate remains as popular as ever, with or without such an unfortunate flavour incentive.
Sporting different locations in Harrogate for over a century and a half, Tarrah’s have supplied toffee, candies, tea and all other manner of sweet-toothed delight to generations. Nearly 95 % of the product range is Farrah’s, however they offer a selection from Yorkshire Tea, Grandma Wild’s Yorkshire Biscuits and other local specialties.
The toffee remains the main attraction, of course, not to mention the extensive selection of preservatives.
Running a business with this kind of legacy is quite a task. Farrah’s of Harrogate are always on the lookout for new products and new ideas; at present they’ve expanded their gift section, which has been exceptionally popular amongst the regular stream of tourists attracted to the heritage of the shop.
Tourists return for gifts, curious parties slowly become regulars as they fall in love with products, one by one. The variety of artisan chocolates and toffees is enough to keep you coming back for years, and the passion for new ideas and cherished traditions will surely be attracting locals and explorers alike.
We wouldn’t be surprised if Farrah’s of Harrogate has another few centuries left in its legacy.