Gollipops, a candy factory specializing in lollipops in north Payson, is working on a sweet relocation deal designed to keep the company in Payson and boost the town's downtown redevelopment project.
Company owners, who want to expand the factory, have been scouring Payson and other Arizona towns for a building that will accommodate their space needs.
According to the candy company's co-owner Ardella Keith, Gollipops officials will sign a short-term lease and move to Tonto Basin, but the operative words are "short-term."
"We are working with the Town of Payson, and we hope to build a brand new facility in the Green Valley Redevelopment Area," Keith said.
If and when that happens, Gollipops officials intend to build not only a manufacturing facility, but a retail candy shop and candy museum at the downtown location, she said. But there are still a lot of "ifs" and "maybes" attached to the deal.
"We're meeting with the bank on Tuesday and we hope to get an answer on whether our loan will fly to buy some equipment in Idaho," Keith said. "We're working with another company up there to put this all together. I guess you could say we're acquiring them."
Payson Mayor Ray Schum and Vice Mayor Dick Wolfe have been meeting with Gollipops to determine how the town can accommodate the company's long-term needs.
"They want us," Keith said, "and we want to stay in the area."
Gollipops' current factory at 1010 N. Beeline can't accommodate the company's anticipated growth.
"There was just one existing building in Payson that would have worked for us," Keith said, "and it would have cost us $250,000 to retrofit it."
What the company needs is a 15,000- to 20,000-square-foot building that could eventually be expanded to at least 30,000 square feet. The temporary move to Tonto Basin will buy Gollipops the time it needs to finalize the details and build a new facility.
"The company we're acquiring does about 70 different lollipops of every size, color and description," Keith said. "Their products are in several foreign countries, including England and Japan.
"Their equipment will also extend the shelf life of our products. The top-of-the-stove process we use now doesn't take all of the liquid out, and that limits shelf life."
Another piece of the puzzle that has to fall in place is to acquire the site that Gollipops is looking at in the redevelopment district. Because negotiations are in process, Keith declined to identify the specific property under consideration.
"So much is up in the air right now, but it is sort of on Main Street," Keith said. "I will say that it is not at Sawmill Crossing. That site was too small."
Both Wolfe and Schum are ebullient.
"It's a very exciting project," Wolfe said. "I've been part of a group meeting with them for about a month. We're trying to help them get the financing they need to pull this off."
Part of the new Gollipops facility would front on Main Street, the vice mayor said, and candy factory tours would ultimately be available to the public. "It fits in very nicely with what we are trying to do down there," he said.
The town's need for additional off-street parking could also be addressed through the arrangement with Gollipops.
"We acquired some land across from the fire station to take care of some of our parking needs," Wolfe said. "We need some further down the street, and this venture partnership with Gollipops could help us to get it. These are the kinds of things the town can do and should do," he said.
Gollipops, which currently has 17 employees, will add at least 20 more when the new facility is completed.
"Gollipops is just an excellent company for this kind of endeavor," Wolfe said. "Their hiring practices are above reproach. They even have a youth hiring program in the summer."
Schum said the town will do whatever is "reasonable and right" to help Gollipops and other companies stay in Payson, especially in the redevelopment area.
"Business retention," Wolfe said, "is every bit as important as bringing new businesses to town."