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Watson's Candies, a veteran, local chocolate manufacturer and retailer, will debut its first franchise candy shop in Buffalo Tuesday. The newest Watson's retail store will open at 736 Elmwood Ave., in Buffalo, under the ownership of Deborah Brassel. Jim Watson, president of the family-owned candy company, said the decision to move from corporate retail shops to franchises is a smart one.

"What I really want to do is run a candy company, not spend all my time being a human resources director," Watson said. "My hands are pretty full with the plant in Tonawanda and four company-run stores, so if we're going to grow on the retail side, it made a lot of sense for us to explore the franchise route."

Watson, whose father and uncle founded the local candy business in 1946, didn't have to search too hard to find his first franchise owner. Brassel is a long-time friend of Watson and was looking to run a retail business now that her kids are nearly grown.

"I had a little card and gift shop in Clarence years ago before our kids were born and always wanted to get back into retailing when they were older," she said. "I love chocolate, especially Watson's chocolate, so this seemed like a perfect match."

Watson and Brassel considered a number of sites for the franchise location, but kept coming back to the Elmwood Strip as the best option.

"I was particularly drawn to Elmwood because it's such a vibrant part of the city. There's a lot of life there with a dynamic mix of stores and I see Watson's fitting in really well," Watson said.

Currently, there is only one candy retailer on Elmwood, Sweet Tooth, which is located 478 Elmwood. However, the two will not compete directly as Sweet Tooth also sells a variety of cakes and ice cream confections, and offers in-store dining.

"We're going to be strictly candies to go, so I think we're quite different. And we're Watson's. That's a very special name to people who know we offer a unique style and taste," he added.

Watson's fabricates a wide variety of chocolate goodies, but is probably best-known for its sponge candy. This past December, the company's Emsinger Road plant turned out 3.5 tons of the sweet, crunchy treat.

The company's success with the regional delicacy has earned it a spot in an upcoming edition of Saveur magazine, a gourmet food journal.

Watson's continues to run its original candy shop at 2908 Delaware Ave. in Kenmore, as well as locations in East Amherst, Ellicottville and suburban Rochester.

If the Elmwood Avenue experiment with franchising works, Watson expects to add more stores through that business arrangement.

"I'm already scouting locations, so we'll be ready. If this works out as well as I think it will, there'll be more Watson signs around," Watson added.

The Elmwood Avenue store will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The shop will have special pre-Valentine's Day hours on Sunday, Feb. 13, in advance of the major candy-giving holiday.

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