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Sweets for all: Bakken Sweet Treats appeals to all diets, palettes

Bakken Sweet Treats moved to its new location on Main Street in Watford City in early February. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press 1 / 4
Bakken Sweet Treats started selling taffy from Medora this month in addition to the other sweets. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press 2 / 4
Bakken Sweet Treats makes most of its candy and treats in the store and uses molds to create chocolate guns, Legos and other creations. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press 3 / 4
Store owner Crystal Helde tries new recipes and to bring in candy people from all over the nation are familiar with to appeal to Watford City's diverse customer base. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press4 / 4

Though Easter may be just a few weeks away, Bakken Sweet Treats will not be selling Easter baskets. Instead, the shop will roll out Easter trucks, wagons and other toys loaded primarily with homemade candy and treats.

"I think baskets are a waste," said Crystal Helde, the store's owner. "You use them and then do you ever use them again? No, you throw them away. So I just want to offer something really original that nobody else has or you don't find around here."

She plans to include other items, such as tooth brushes, in the bundles — though she noted the irony.

Helde originally opened her shop in another part of Watford City before moving it onto the main street about two months later. She has been in her new location at 113 Main St. South since the beginning of February.

She plans to take special orders, even for specific themes, for Easter up until about 10 days prior.

"This year Valentine's Day was great for us, so I think that Easter will be a hit too," she said.

Helde makes a lot of her product in-house including: caramels, pretzel rods, s'mores, brittles, fudge, chocolate covered strawberries and peanut butter cups. She also has special molds to create candy guns, Legos and truffles. She sells taffy as well and this month will begin selling taffy from Medora, something she expects will be a big hit.

Kelly Haring, Helde's self-proclaimed chief candy tester, works in the shop on days Helde needs some extra help. Otherwise, Helde runs the business on her own seven days a week.

Haring noted that Helde is always trying new recipes and on the lookout for new ideas. She is receptive to customer's requests and suggestions as well.

"This is a very unique area with people from all over the country here working, so people come in from, say down south, and if they have a specific candy that they are familiar with from down there, she would like to hear about it," Haring said.

One customer came into the shop and told her about the ketogenic diet — a low carb, high fat means of healthier eating. Helde did some research and now has three flavors of treats for such a diet: blueberry cheesecake, strawberry and lemon, she said. Haring noted that she also sells sugarless candy for those who cannot have sugar but still like their sweets. She's always looking for new things to try that customers may enjoy.

"She's like a kid herself, she gets pretty excited about new recipes and wants to try them," Haring said laughing.

Since the move, business has picked up, Helde said. The first few months of business she was nervous as her product failed to move off the shelves — thousands of dollars of inventory. Now her candy is moving, partially because of some especially loyal customers.

"I have rig workers that come in and get their chocolate-covered bacon to take out on their hitch," she said. "They'll usually send me a message and say, 'Hey, my hitch starts in two days, can I stop by?' That's the great part of owning something like this."

Helde has five children and always enjoyed cooking and baking at home. She grew up in Powers Lake, N.D. before leaving the state. She returned in 2011 because of the oil boom and worked in safety in the oil fields for a number of years. Eventually, she decided to try something completely different and opened up her own shop.

"This isn't really a job, this is more something that I love to do," she said. "I've always loved to cook... you never have a bad day at work if you're doing something you love. Even though there's days I get frustrated and burn my fudge or whatever, you appreciate things more when it's yours."

This summer she hopes to see even more customers buzzing through the shop on their way to the northern part of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, right outside of Watford City. They will have summer treats including frozen chocolate dipped bananas, things that are less common outside of a fair or large city, she said.

Ultimately, she strives to produce the best homemade baking she can. While other products contain additives and preservatives, she works to create sweets like she had growing up.

"I could have bought a big fudge machine, but I said, 'No, this is the way I've made it for years, and this is the way I'm going to keep making it,'" she said.