SIOUX CITY | Bill Clinton popped into Palmer's Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe Wednesday, surprising the staff and the handful of customers in the downtown Sioux City store.

Smiles abounded as Clinton posed for a picture near a register station with 11 employees. He then moved to a different part of the store behind the counter to meet five more employees.

Store manager John Sadler proudly said aloud, "See, we have celebrities come shop at our store," throwing in the mention of country singer Martina McBride.

Aides, media members and customers watched Clinton move through the store, which is an outlet for Palmer Candy Co., the Sioux City-based maker of the Twin Bing and other candy products. He walked by the sweet treats, noting items decorated to appeal to Iowa Hawkeye and Nebraska Cornhusker fans, and headed for specialty foods in a distant corner.

Clinton threw out his arms, as if to gesture, "How am I to decide?"

Sadler shouted, "That'd be a good snack on the plane."

Clinton, who is a vegan, ultimately picked out a coffee cake, white bean dip and crackers.

"We've got a long flight," the 42nd president said, before signing an autograph for one woman.

Fern Rocklin, of Sioux City, was one of the few patrons inside the store when Clinton visited. She spoke to the former president on his way in, telling him she was there to pick up an order of the sweet treat called Cow Pies, which has chocolate, peanuts and potato chips. That moved Clinton to tell a story of a county fair with a similar enjoyable treat.

Rocklin also injected some good-natured politics into the conversation.

"I told him taxes are the dues you pay for being on the planet," she quipped.

Clinton made the impromptu 15-minute stop at the store along Wesley Parkway just after 2 p.m., following a nearly hourlong campaign event on the riverfront in support of his wife, Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton, who is locked in a tight race in Iowa with Republican nominee Donald Trump. He took time after his public rally for the unscheduled stop of 15 minutes. He left the store to a waiting caravan of cars, bound for a campaign stop later in the day in Waterloo, Iowa.

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County and education reporter

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