For fishing gear, “Go to the candy store” – Salisbury Post
By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY — Mark Staley headed to the checkout with a box of Blow Pops, a bag of Bit-O-Honey and a Berkley Glowstick fishing rod.
“If he can’t catch fish, he’ll eat candy,” chuckled his uncle Johnny Staley.
Minutes earlier, Tonya Marion had gone to the cash register with a box of chocolate covered cherries and a new Lews fishing reel that she and her husband plan to use soon.
When you come to Fleming Candy Co., you don’t need to buy fishing tackle with your candy purchase, or buy candy when you pick up your fishing supplies. But this accumulation seems to happen often.
“You can’t leave without buying a packet of worms and a packet of sweets,” Marion said, laughing at how unusual that might sound.
The Fleming Candy Co. name baffles unschooled anglers, of course. Mark Staley remembers the first time his uncle Johnny and his father, Junior, invited him to make the rather long trip from Arcadia to Salisbury for their fishing tackle needs.
“A confectionery company? Mark then said. “What are you talking about, a confectionery business? »
Staley has learned what others in the fishing community have discovered over the past 40 years through word of mouth and, more recently, online reviews. Fleming Candy Co.’s wholesale prices and name brand selections are often worth visiting 3680 S. Main St..
About half of the Fleming Candy Co. showroom next to the warehouse is devoted to all manner of candies – familiar items such as Twizzlers, Junior Mints and wax lips. Flemings – Ray, Jeff and Mike – also sell collectible sports cards, high-quality knives and Zippo lighters.
But the other aisles of the showroom are filled with rods, reels, lead weights, lures, hooks, flounder lights, trolling boat batteries, coolers, carp juice – just about everything needed for freshwater and saltwater fishing.
“It’s kind of like a best-kept secret,” Mark Staley said.
Designed for surf fishing at night, the Staley rod purchased from the Fleming Candy Co. would have cost him an extra $30 at the beach, he said.
“We tell everyone about this place,” said Marion, who enjoys bass fishing with her husband, Mike, on the Yadkin River chain of lakes. “It’s the best place, at the best price.”
Family runs deep at Fleming Candy Co., which started operations on Council Street in 1935. Photos of founder Glenn Fleming and his wife, Pearl, take prominent places on the showroom wall .
In 1940, Glenn Fleming moved his business to South Church Street, where he had more room for a small warehouse to accommodate the needs of “wagon jobbers” – men with trucks who picked up their candy orders from Fleming Candy Co. , then sold them. wholesale to stores on their routes through Rowan and adjoining counties.
Ray Fleming said his father’s profit margin of just 2% came directly from candy makers such as Hershey’s.
Glenn Fleming died of liver cancer in 1956 during Ray’s senior year at Catawba College. Wasting no time, Ray took over the business. At first, he was able to hold a 3-5 p.m. window to hand out candy to wagon dealers, while attending college in the mornings and early afternoons.
Fleming Candy Co. built a new warehouse and store at its current location on South Main Street (US 29) in 1966. Every 20 years, Ray said, the company had to put a new roof on the site, but otherwise it’s pretty much the same as almost 50 years ago.
Although he didn’t push them into the business, Glenn’s sons Jeff and Mike joined him at Fleming Candy Co. after college of their own and together they run the operation today, receiving still a huge help from Ray, 79. especially on fishing gear.
It was Ray Fleming’s love of fishing and the Fleming Candy Co.’s decision in 1970 to stop selling small appliances, televisions, stereos and tape recorders that led the company to sell fishing equipment. Partly by instinct and partly by luck, Ray decided to start filling the space once devoted to household appliances with fishing tackle.
The stock grew steadily over the years as more anglers learned that Fleming Candy Co. was a pretty good resource. Ray Fleming said there is a lot of truth to the saying that an angler wants to be in either of these two places – on the water or in a tackle shop.
One of Ray’s father’s wagon dealers, a Mr. Windsor, first took him fishing as a child. But he really developed a love for the sport after he and several pals – now all gone – founded the Salisbury Bassmasters Club in 1970.
“I met a bunch of good guys at this club,” Ray said. “A group of us fished together for 35 years.”
Ray still attends regular club meetings but has stopped going to fishing tournaments, mainly due to a left foot that sometimes falls asleep on him. It is also more difficult these days to fish from a boat for eight hours.
“I got too old for that,” Ray said.
A good number of customers walk into Fleming Candy Co. every day, and more of them are fishermen than candy buyers.
Ray said the company’s tackle prices are good because they don’t have the overhead of big-box retailers. “We don’t have high priced reels or rods – and we don’t need them,” he added.
Like an anthropologist, Ray Fleming likes to observe the routines and spending habits of fishermen.
People who come to Fleming Candy Co. from outside Rowan County or other states tend to buy more when they visit because they have traveled a considerable distance. On Wednesday morning, a customer who had driven an hour to the showroom ended up spending $360 on rods, reels and lures.
Ray said most women would be shocked to know what their husbands spend on fishing gear, especially bass anglers. In a way, this has sometimes helped the candy sales, as the men make sure to bring something home for their wives.
Rainy Saturdays are perhaps the best times to sell fishing tackle. Jeff Fleming arrived at Fleming Candy Co. this kind of Saturday to find fishermen waiting to enter.
“Guys who fish – if they can’t fish, they like to look at the fishing tackle,” Jeff said.
Fleming Candy Co. naturally becomes a place to swap fishing stories and share knowledge of the best fishing spots, baits and boats.
“At least once a week we get someone new,” Mike Fleming said. “They say people told them, ‘Go to the candy store’.”
The fishing tackle craze now overshadows the fact that Fleming Candy Co. still has a healthy wholesale business for candy and tobacco products.
The business serves primarily as a warehouse for small family stores that cannot afford their own storage space. Moreover, sweets also have their busy seasons, such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween.
Ray Fleming – again, the anthropologist – said so much has changed in the business, but Fleming Candy Co. continues to adapt. Once, for example, the company stocked all kinds of health and beauty products. Now he’s gotten rid of virtually all of those products, except the headache powders.
Sports cards – especially baseball cards – were once a big part of the business in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But the bubble burst on the card and collecting companies, a bit like a stock market crash.
By far, the candy company’s biggest adjustment has been to get into the fishing supplies business. Has this ever made the Flemings think about changing their name?
Ray said “Fleming Tackle Co.” might make more sense, or even “Fleming Tobacco”. But “Fleming Candy Co.” has a lot of sentiment attached to it, as well as a unique reputation among anglers.
“If they were selling live bait, I think they would corner the market,” said Mark Staley.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or [email protected] Fleming Candy Co., located at 3680 S. Main St., is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday.