If you've noticed a sweet, fruity smell wafting through the Rim Country lately, it can only mean one thing -- Gollipops is back.
The candy factory, known for making spherical lollipops that come in a wide array of flavors, and look like oversized marbles on sticks, is under new ownership after it stopped production last year.
Co-owner Mike Armstead described the nine-month shutdown as a "fleeting moment" in Gollipops' 21-year history. Armstead has big plans for the candy factory's future.
"Gollipops is heading back up to the top and we're having fun," Armstead said.
Armstead's goal is to eventually rival well-established candy companies like Brach's Confections, which makes Wild ‘n Fruity Gummi Bears and Milk Maid Caramels.
The plan is to focus mostly on the "over-the-counter market," like grocery store chains and drugstores.
The suckers are already being distributed in Minnesota, New York, Florida and most other states, Armstead said, but the emphasis will be on building accounts with "mom and pop" stores because they drove sales in the past.
Gollipops -- short for gourmet lollipops -- left town last year when a manager, hired to help with the business in the face of the previous owners' failing health, moved the manufacturing facility to North Carolina without the owners' permission.
Armstead and his partners -- brother Tim Armstead and Hooter Haught -- purchased Gollipops from the original owners and relieved the manager of his duties, allowing the incoming management to bring the company back to "where it needs to be," Mike said.
If the plan is successful, two shifts of 13 employees each could be a reality in the near future, making Gollipops one of the largest employers in Payson, Mike said.
The new owners of the lollipop operation have never worked in the candy business before. Although Gollipops' new management hasn't hired a candy specialist yet, head cook, Trent Broc is probably the next-best thing.
Broc followed the candy-making operation to North Carolina during the Payson factory's closure.
"(The previous owners) helped me out and then it seemed like I turned around and hurt them," Broc said.
Broc has stayed with the company for the last 19 years because the owners have been "good people who'll bend over backward for their employees," he said.
"You don't find that much anymore," he added.
For now, Gollipops is working with two cooks after a dry run with eight employees left them overstocked. The partners are counting on their experience from owning other local businesses -- an auto body shop for the Armsteads and a construction company for Haught -- to guide them.
"It's kind of like buying an old car and fixing it," Tim Armstead said of resurrecting the company.
"We learned more about manufacturing from our body shop than anything," which will play into candy production, Mike added.
Mike is confident that he and his partners will adapt.
"That's why I'm an entrepreneur," he said. "It's the not knowing that's exciting."
The Armstead brothers and Haught, all Payson natives, said running their business in another location, like the Valley, would probably be less expensive, but they're committed to staying local -- even if shipping materials in and out of Payson costs more.
They see Gollipops as an investment in their hometown, Mike said.
Meanwhile, Main Street, where the previous owners had considered building an expanded candy facility, doesn't appear to be part of the plan -- at least not for a factory.
Armstead wants a facility large enough to produce 800 suckers per minute, but with that kind of capacity the town may not be interested in having Gollipops on Main Street, he said.
While a Gollipops store is a possibility for the historic district, the large-scale manufacturing facility Mike envisions probably wouldn't fit the Western character the town is trying to create.
Even so, Mike is committed to reestablishing Gollipops as a Payson institution.
"We're going to keep the small-town image no matter how big we get," he said.