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Tracy Frank, Published January 18 2010

Jelly bean queens: Q&A with Jill Liebelt and Lynn Sanborn of Jillybeans

Jillybeans candy and gift shop in West Acres mall in Fargo beckons children (and the young at heart) with its large machine of churning teddy bear stuffing and the promise of enough sugar to sate the most ravenous sweet tooth.

There are 49 distinct flavors of Jelly Belly jelly beans that can be mixed together to form multiple flavor combinations.

A display case of gourmet chocolates, truffles and caramels greets shoppers as they enter the store.

Clear plastic bins filled with things like Bleep Blips, rock candy, and Jawbreakers the size of softballs line the walls.

The shop also carries marbles, cards, stuffed toys, and toys that customers can stuff themselves.

Lynn Sanborn owns Jillybeans and runs it with her daughter, Jill Liebelt, the store’s manager and the original “Jillybean.”

“I’ve been known as Jillybean since I was that big,” Liebelt said, gesturing to her knee.

Sanborn bought the business in July 2003.

Q: How did you get started?

A: Jill Liebelt: I worked here during college when it was Mr. Bulky and Candy Court. I talked to the owner and told her if she ever wanted to get out to give us a call. She gave us a call, and here we are.

Lynn Sanborn: I had worked in banking for 13 years and I was just ready for a change. It’s been very fun.

What changes have you made since taking over?

JL: That’s when we added our gift lines. We added cards and gifts, expanded our chocolate lines.

We took the Jelly Belly line and made it bigger.

Do you carry all of the Jelly Belly flavors?

LS: We carry almost all of them. There are just a very few we don’t carry. We will order if you want them. We do special orders for people all the time.

JL: We order for weddings, graduations or any occasion.

Is that pretty popular?

LS: Weddings, definitely. A lot of them are doing these candy bars now where they set up a buffet of candy. They’re getting these big jars and filling them with color-coordinated candies.

Are customers typically looking for gifts when they come in here?

LS: I think most of the time it’s an impulse when they walk by the door. They want to come in and see if they can find their favorite treats.

A lot of times they’re looking for a memory of something they had when they were kids. They’re excited to find some of their favorite candies they can’t find anywhere else.

JL: The younger kids just like us in general.

How does the toy-stuffing machine work?

LS: The hardest part is picking out what animal you want to make. (The stuffing) just blows out the side. It just takes a couple minutes.

JL: The kids like to make the animal as squishy or as hard as they want to. They get to put a star inside and make a wish. They get a birth certificate. It pretty much creates it as their own animal. They get to be the mama or the daddy to it, and they think that’s really fun.

Do you have any future plans?

LS: We have malls from all over wanting us to branch out because nobody has stores like this anymore. It’s fun to be that person who’s being sought after, but as of yet we haven’t done that. We feel like what has helped us is because we’re here all the time, and to give up that control to somebody else, it’s hard to turn that over.

Business profile


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526