When Gigi Alibhai was a child growing up in Cuba, life wasn't too sweet. Her mother, who was a political prisoner for a time, worked at a candy factory to make ends meet for her family. Alibhai says her family was so poor she didn't have shoes, let alone toys.
"My mother would stay late at the candy factory and sculpt toys for me from the leftover candy," Alibhai said. "It takes so much heat and work to sculpt that hard candy with bare hands that her fingertips were literally burnt off. l wanted to eat them, but I couldn't. They were my only toys."
Alibhai, now a successful entrepreneur, philanthropist, and mother of three, decided to open a shop that would combine toys and candy with a place kids could go to and socialize, taking her story full circle. Smooshies (coined from the name Alibhai's daughter calls her brothers), soft opens in Key Biscayne late August, with an official grand opening on Halloween (the official/unofficial day of candy).
"It's sort of like a Starbucks for kids," Alibhai said. "I wanted to create something that was more than a candy store; a place where kids can sit down and hang out." In addition to treats, Smooshies will offer kid-friendly WiFi and parent-friendly coffee and tea.
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The Key Biscayne shop will feature a mix of old and new. The ultra modern structure will be furnished with old-fashioned shelves featuring classic penny candies, lollipops, gummy bears, and Skittles. "We'll have between 150-200 different varieties of candy, including a section that includes sugar-free, gluten-free, and organic offerings. I don't want a child to walk away without finding a treat that's right for them," the modern day Willy Wonka said. In addition, the shop will have its own branded chocolate bars.
When asked whether in this increasingly health-conscious world if candy fits into a kid's diet, Alibhai's answer was a resounding yes. "Everything fits in moderation. I'm also creating a whole section of healthy candy, so no one is left behind. And, if you don't want your child to eat candy for whatever reason, we'll have toys that encourage children to go out and play. Go in the water. Get creative. Anyone can have a candy and toy store. I'm trying to build one with a purpose."