Leslee Thomas wants to be west Las Vegas’ candy lady.
It’s an old-school, cottage industry business to be the spot where neighborhood children buy snacks and sweets. But when Thomas opened her brick-and-mortar shop, Sight and Sound Candy and More, nearly two years ago, she wanted to bring that spirit to today’s kids.
Thomas opened her store, located at 1000 N. Martin Luther King Blvd., Suite F, in August 2020. She used her own funds to start the business in the Historic Westside area because she did not want to take on debt. But she soon realized that she needed support because she did not have capital through loans or grants as business was slower than anticipated in the pandemic’s early months.
“I knew it was out there for me somewhere, but it was just something new that I had to learn,” she said. “What made it hard for me when I started looking was there wasn’t really anything for startup businesses.”
Thomas soon connected with the Office of Small Business Advocacy, a new government agency meant to act as a central hub for small businesses in need of resources or government representation. It’s hosted in the office of Lt. Gov. Lisa Cano Burkhead.
Staff was soon able to identify a potential grant partner through the Latin Chamber of Commerce and the Urban Chamber of Commerce. Thomas received a $10,000 grant through the Valley Center Opportunity Zone program, officials announced this week.
“Leslee’s candy shop is the perfect example of a small business who might not realize what aid in government they are entitled to,” Sonny Vinuya, the office’s director, said in a statement. “This funding will go a long way in helping her business. I’m thankful to our partners at the Latin and Urban Chambers for making this happen.”
Thomas said she’s thankful for the support, and is personally glad she can continue the family tradition of small business ownership.
That same location used to be Larry’s Sight and Sound Music Center, first opened in 1958 by her grandfather. Today’s Sight and Sound will sell candy, snacks and other food, which can be purchased through EBT and SNAP benefits. It also can be rented out for children’s birthday parties and baby showers.
Thomas wanted to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive through her new business with a similar name. She wanted her storefront to sell something with more longevity than the music business that has moved away from vinyl records and CDs to favor streaming.
“What I’m doing is keeping our legacy alive,” she said. “I just transformed it from a music store to a candy store, to keep up with the times.”
McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.