When Liz Zalunardo was a little girl she would carefully set aside her pocket money for something wonderful - not for lollies, but for the dream of owning a lolly shop.
Now her dream is a reality, after a conversation led the mother-of-eight to buy the Lolly and Gift Shop in Kiama.
"[It was] the place I used to take the kids to get some normality in the middle of hospitals and doctors and now we are watching the joy it brings to other kids," Mrs Zalunardo said.
"We have started our business to allow me to be able to work again as I couldn't find anything that would ever work around the needs of the children."
Mrs Zalunardo used to visit the shop on Collins Street frequently as a stress release from caring for her two youngest children (aged two and three) who both have multiple health issues.
Endless appointments with specialists in Sydney and the Illawarra meant she has been unable to work for several years.
The former owner of the shop hadn't yet listed it for sale, but her intentions to retire came up in a conversations with Mrs Zalunardo who jumped at the chance.
"It was literally a visit at the shop, so I was like 'I'll buy it then' ... and it just went from there," she said.
"I was really the only opportunity I could work again ... and it allows us to still care for the kids and juggle everything."
She took over the business in February, just before national lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, before closing for seven weeks.
I used to spend a lot of time at the corner store selecting my lollies. I used to go home and tell mum the line was really long, but it was really just me [taking my time].Elizabeth Zalunardo
In the downtime, the blended family gave the grey shop a makeover as colourful as a scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
If medical issues means she can't open on time, Mrs Zalunardo is her own boss so feels at ease without needing to call in sick.
Some of her older children also help out at the shop on weekends.
Meantime, the appeal of their parents owning a lolly shop still hasn't lost its shine, with each given some money to buy the sweets they like.
Perhaps the love for candy comes from Mrs Zalunardo's own sweet tooth.
"I used to spend a lot of time at the corner store selecting my lollies," she said.
"I used to go home and tell mum the line was really long, but it was really just me [taking my time] selecting my lollies."
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