Smooshies candy store opens in Key Biscayne

The end of October means visions of jack-o-lantern buckets overflowing with candy. We spend more than $2 billion each year on Halloween sweets. 

Smart timing, then, for Smooshies Kids’ Candy and Toy Store, which will host a grand opening on Halloween where kids can come in costumes for handouts and parents can sip coffee with baked goods. (The shop has been open quietly for several weeks.)

Owner Gigi Alibhai grew up in the fishing village of Cojimar, Cuba, where her mother, a political prisoner, worked at a candy factory on her release and twisted leftover hot candy into toys for her. 

Alibhai owns and develops Ritz-Carlton hotels with her husband and decided to open a place where kids can play, do homework and enjoy gluten-free, sugar-free and organic candy as well as the regular kind. She named it after the hugs or smooshies her daughter gives to Alibhai’s two younger boys.

Halloween is rooted in ancient Celtic harvest festivals when the sun left the earth and darkness descended. Early Romans celebrated the dead by sharing sweets. Many cultures call it all-souls day or day of the dead, using humor to confront the power of death. 

In the 1950s, candy manufacturers began promoting commercially wrapped candy as a safer alternative to homemade caramel apples and popcorn balls. 

At Smooshies, shop for candies in a hip space with jars full of licorice, Swedish fish, taffies, chocolates, gumdrops, sour creatures, lollipops, striped candy sticks and more. 

For Halloween there’s candy corn, gummy pumpkins, vampire fangs, candy necklaces and chewy wax lips, plus old-style penny candy. A percentage of every sale goes to charity — no trick; that’s a pretty sweet treat.

Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.