PHILIPSBURG — Although it's been open less than 25 years, it's hard to imagine Philipsburg without the Sweet Palace. During the summer, you won't find many busier spots in western Montana.
The Sweet Palace has been an integral part of the small town of Philipsburg, Montana for 23 years and in that relatively short amount of time, this store has built quite the reputation as the go-to place for the best candy around. It's a reputation that has brought people in from all parts of the country and around the world.
Co-owner Shirley Beck noted just one example of many from a visiting Australian family. “They met someone in the Outback of Australia telling them that when they come to the United States, if they’re visiting the parks meaning Yellowstone and Glacier, you’re going to be in Montana and you must go to the Sweet Palace.”
Even with the allure of huckleberry fudge, old-fashioned candy, and a saltwater taffy or two, building a lasting brand 25 miles off the highway isn't easy. Beck says her and co-owner Dale Siegford’s plan was to make it big and make it unique.
“We wanted a store big enough that two wheelchairs could pass each other, families could come as whole groups, and that everybody could have a good time and not worry if they were going to be knocking something off the shelf. The other thing is people watch things being made, and you know what? Everyone likes to watch someone else work.”
“We wanted a store big enough that two wheelchairs could pass each other, families could come as whole groups, and that everybody could have a good time and not worry if they were going to be knocking something off the shelf," Beck explained. "The other thing is people watch things being made, and you know what? Everyone likes to watch someone else work.”
When it comes to their philosophy on candy, their choice is depth according to Beck, "what we have chosen to do is instead of going broad, go deep. If we have licorice, we have more licorice than you can find anywhere else. If we have toffee, we have 72 flavors plus a rookie.”
The proof that this model works comes from customer testimonies and in sheer numbers. “We had 49 countries visiting the Sweet Palace by the 31st of March, and of course we hit all 50 states, and sometimes in the summer, for those who have visited more often, it’s up to 1,200 people a day," Beck told MTN News.
Those numbers were pre-pandemic. When the word came down from then Gov. Steve Bullock that all non-essential businesses had to shut down on March 27, 2020, Beck was at a loss.
“I stood as we closed that Friday night at the back of the store, and it was hard not to cry, and I don’t cry that easily," she recalled.
It didn’t take long for Beck and Siegford to come up with a plan. Step one was to take care of those who take care of those they serve.
“We gave everybody a raise, and a significant raise, because we had no idea what was going to happen to them," Beck said. "And it was more important to us, number one, to take care of our staff. "And the staff takes care of the public. And that’s how that goes and that’s how Dale and I use our philosophy.”
Beck says that with a transition in focus to more shipping of products, and a late summer and Christmas surge, they came out of 2020 in great shape. As for what Beck hopes for the future, she says she wants to give each person who walks through the door a once-in-a-lifetime experience in a uniquely special town.
"If someone comes to visit, and then they leave at the end of the day, not only from the candy store but from Philipsburg we want them to know that, they’re thinking about it later two years, three years you know there was this place, there was this little place in Montana and it was the best I ever felt when I left," Beck concluded.
If you want to check out the Sweet Palace for yourself the store is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday. They're are closed on Saturdays.
Check out more photos from the Sweet Palace here.
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