A trip to Goody’s Gourmet Treats in Brainerd is a chance to engage the senses surrounding sweets.
Fragrant popcorn rolls in a large drum behind the counter. Candy displays provide a vast array of color. Decorative white lights dot the ceiling. Painted giraffes peek out from behind a curtain along one wall with a floor-to-ceiling case filled with toys, games and jigsaw puzzles.
The looks and visual experience for those entering the store was part of the plan from the beginning.
“We wanted to just aesthetically give someone experience, walking in the door, even if they don't buy anything just for them to enjoy the artwork and the murals on the wall and the decor,” said owner Denise Laudenbach.
Games include Silky Crayons, Auto Bingo cards, the original Spirograph and a travel version, stunt cars and a bag of soldiers that promise an ability to crawl when thrown on a wall. Activity games include dough and dot markers, art projects, colorful Playfoam, along with family games like The Polar Express Train-opoly. Not surprisingly, the jigsaw puzzles with a variety of small options up to 300, 500 and 1,000 pieces are among the most popular. Puzzles for children come in shapes including dinosaurs and a train engine. For adults looking for a challenge there are puzzles with a twist where the finished puzzle doesn’t necessarily look like the image on the box.
Goody’s is known for its popcorn with a mix of flavors, cheese and caramel or special combinations like a cherry-dark chocolate drizzle or green apple and cherry or even Oreo popcorn, peanut butter and jelly. Thursday, Feb. 11, there were also displays of chocolate hearts in boxes and bags and jars of candy with a Valentine’s Day draw, including Jelly Beans. There are handmade marshmallows ready to be combined with hot cocoa and vintage candy. The store, tucked into the clock tower building at the Northern Pacific Center on Brainerd’s east side, includes ice cream and the popular cheesecake flavors in the Goody’s Jar by the UGLY Cheesecake Co. that has developed its own following.
The giraffe and the elephant statue on the front counter and other displays bring in the theme of the circus. Farther into the store, a Wishing Wall display offers a slip of colored paper to write down a wish. Rolled paper slips with earlier written wishes protrude from little slots in the display.
Goody’s opened in September with ice cream flavors like Superman and honey lavender with sunflower seeds. The name for the store is a tribute to owner Denise Laudenbach’s mother, Goody, known for her love of popcorn and ice cream. A photo of Goody is displayed in the store.
The store’s owners include Denise’s husband Joe and their daughter, Molly Dragovich. The Laudenbachs may also be familiar to the community through their store the Dock Panther in Nisswa, which is now in its seventh year.
The Brainerd venture was expected to open in May of 2020 but was pushed back with the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. Laudenbach said they stopped planning but after the couple was home for about four weeks, they started thinking the world was going to need something on the happy side. They thought they could provide that and local jobs.
So they decided to give it a shot.
“And it's been really great,” Laudenbach said in a phone interview Friday. The community response has provided the affirmation they made the right decision, she said, noting everyday they hear from people who thank them for being here. Laudenbach said it’s been a blessing so far.
“So that's been really good,” she said. “And our employees are amazing.”
Two employees and artists from the Dock Panther painted the murals and artwork freehand for the store.
At Goody’s, employee Olivia Wiskow was busy making popcorn Thursday afternoon. Wiskow said the focus for the store is to make sure everything was fresh as possible and that the store created an engaging visual story of its own with the displays.
“When people walk in, we want people to be like, ‘Wow, look at this,’” Wiskow said. She described the work as fun, creative and new.
“I love it,” Wiskow said of working at Goody’s. “Every time I come here I’m just excited to do it. I just love working here. … Denise makes you feel like family.”
Laudenbach said she also wants to help local organizations, groups and clubs that are trying to raise money for a cause and they are just moving into this fundraising aspect.
“And so that's that's a big piece of the vision,” Laudenbach said. “... Fundraising and giving back. … our community is so blessed with a lot of organizations that are raising money for good causes and so that's part of our plan, is to make sure that we've got it built in to be able to donate to these different fundraising events that always happen in our community — that's part of our business strategy.”
For Goody’s, Laudenbach said they wanted to help the community, create jobs and provide a good experience for people.