Sweet success in America

Siobhan O'Neill of Sweet Home Alabama, Fawcett Street, Sunderland.
Siobhan O'Neill of Sweet Home Alabama, Fawcett Street, Sunderland.
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NEWS of a Wearside sweet shop has travelled Stateside.

Sweet Home Alabama is now a hit in the US, after appearing in a newspaper based in the south eastern state it takes its name from.

An American journalist stumbled on the Sunderland store on a blog and decided to research its history.

Greg Ritcher, from the Birmingham News, in Alabama, contacted Siobhan O’Neill, who runs the family business with parents Martin and Joan.

She told him how the popular shop was named after the 1974 classic by prog rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd.

“We knew we wanted to open a sweet shop and we brainstormed amongst ourselves about a name,” she said.

“As Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of Martin’s favourite bands when he was at school, the title of the song seemed a perfect fit.

“He wanted a name that had some sort of cultural resonance so that every time someone heard the song or saw the movie, they’d think of the shop.

“It’s pretty memorable. Also, the US seems pretty exotic here to us in this relatively deprived area of Britain.”

Despite the store being more than 4,200 miles away from Alabama, one visitor from the state has come through its doors – as well as plenty of people singing its namesake song.

Siobhan said: “We often get people singing the song when they come through the doors, but these are mainly the teenagers — especially since that cover by Kid Rock a few years ago which was popular over here. I think pretty much everyone knows the song by now.”

Dad Martin, who set up the store on the corner of High Street West seven years ago, would love to visit Alabama and remembers one of his uncles singing “I’m bound for Alabama with my banjo on my knee” at family parties when he was a youngster.

Twitter: @janethejourno