Vintage candy shops in DFW hit our sweet spot

What's your favorite nostalgic candy?
Posted 10:54am on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013

With zombies and vampires in vogue, monsters have kinda taken over Halloween these days. So have superheroes, haunted houses and a parade of sexy Snow Whites.

But let’s not forget the key thing we loved about Halloween as kids — going to people’s houses and coming back with sacks and buckets full of sweet, sugar-high-inducing treats that sometimes had moms rationing the haul so it wouldn’t get all gobbled up in one stomach-ache-inducing binge.

Candy is still big on Halloween, as you can tell by a walk through the candy aisles of any big-box grocery store, where bags of miniature Snickers, Twix and Almond Joys crowd the shelves. But there are some places in DFW — delicious, nostalgia-flavored oases — where you can be transported back to the candies of your youth, even if that candy at one time only existed in your home state.

We’re talking Cherry Mash, Goo-Goo Clusters, Astro Pops, U-Nos, candy cigarettes and necklaces, Chick-O-Sticks, Pop Rocks, rock candy and a host of other throwback confections that often get shoved aside in the Mars-and-Hershey dominated candylanche.

These vintage candies have made a fun-sized comeback, thanks partly to our collective longing for a sense memory — a tasty touchstone to our youth. (Remember Chuckles? Necco Wafers?) There’s a generational element, too, as parents and grandparents introduce young-uns to candies they hadn’t seen since childhood.

And although you might be able to find the vintage stuff at big-box stores — some major candy companies are reviving once-defunct brands — the past few years have also seen a rise in DFW candy stores that trade on nostalgia.

We visited five of them for a look back — and for a bit of a sugar rush.

Candy Barrel, Fort Worth

Sweet inspiration: One of the older nostalgia-oriented candy stores in DFW, Candy Barrel is owned by a Massachusetts-based company called Color Inc., but this isn’t just a case of a chain store: About 15 or so years ago, a couple running a candy store in Stockyards Station decided to get out of the business. Color Inc., which already had the Destination Fort Worth store in Stockyards Station, didn’t want to see the candy store close, so it took over operations.

Regional manager Chris Storey says she believes that Candy Barrel is the most popular store in Stockyards Station. “Everyone that comes on the property comes here,” she says. “There’s rarely a person that will walk in this store and not walk out with something. People will say ‘You have Pop Rocks!’ and invariably someone will say, ‘Don’t eat them with a soda,’ so that urban legend still exists.”

Candy Barrel comes by its name honestly – the store is filled with barrels of candy, from traditional candy bars to a huge and at times offbeat selection of saltwater taffy. “One of our most popular flavors right now is maple bacon,” Storey says.

Sweet talk: A common thread among the candy stores is customers who come in and say, “I haven’t seen [blank] in a long time.” But Storey says that some people haven’t even seen candy stores in a long time.

“People will come in and say, ‘I didn’t even know they still had stores where it was just a store of candy,’” Storey says. “Because they do come from places where you don’t see this kind of thing. Or we do get a lot foreign visitors who come from other countries where there’s no such thing as a store that’s filled with candy, much less candy that would be considered a nostalgia candy.”

Items that get customers talking include Sky Bars (a chocolate bar with four sections, each with a different filling), Chick-O-Sticks (crunchy peanut butter and toasted-coconut candy), and Squirrel Nut Zippers (chewy peanut caramels).

“A customer came in one day, an older gentleman, and said, ‘I’m not even gonna look, but I’m gonna ask: I’ve been looking forever, my wife, she loves Squirrel Nut Zippers, and I’m gonna ask if you have ‘em,’” Storey says. When she showed him where they were, he was ready to buy. “I’m thinking, ‘OK, he’s gonna get a handful, but he ended up getting a basket of like $40 worth because he was so excited. He was like, ‘My wife is going to be so thrilled.’”

Other customers have bought candy for their children, not so much for the sweets factor, but because they’d been trying to explain to their children the concept of Pop Rocks or some other non-Snickers candy. Storey says she even does that with her kids, who are teenagers. “They still refer to it as ‘old-timey candy’, but they do like it,” she says.”

Her sweet weakness: Chocolate has always been Storey’s go-to candy, and Sky Bars are one of her faves. She’s also become a saltwater taffy fan now that she’s surrounded by barrels full of the stuff. But her favorite item in the store is one of the non-candy items, but it still has its own nostalgia factor: “I do love Moon Pies now,” Storey says. “I never really ate ’em before, but we have them here, and I like them.”

What’s the dentist say about all this? “It’s not so much my dentist as my kids,” Storey says. “My kids are like, ‘You’re in here all the time. Do you eat candy when we’re not around?’ I’m like, ‘Of course not. Why would I do that?’ My dentist knows that I’m in and out of the store a lot, so he’s like, ‘Moderation.’”

The Candy Barrel, inside Stockyards Station, 130 E. Exchange Ave., Fort Worth. 817-626-5536 ; www.stockyardsstation.com/shops/the-candy-barrel

Hey Sugar Candy Store, Roanoke

Sweet inspiration: Owner Kristin Brittan and her family are horse people, and they participated at show-horse events around the country. Three of Brittan’s kids loved it; Brittan’s youngest son, Clayton, was shy and less interested in the horses, so Brittan — who had previously worked in legal and real-estate careers — looked for something else for him to do. She bought a 1954 Airstream trailer, tricked it out with nostalgic touches, and stocked it with vintage candy for him to sell at horse shows.

The plan worked: Not only did it help with her son’s shyness, he made $1,000 on his first day, and the family continued bringing the trailer to horse shows. Sensing that this could grow into something bigger, Brittan sought a store in North Texas.

She settled on a house in Roanoke’s restaurant district, and opened Hey Sugar in December 2012. The store’s exterior, which includes classic lawn chairs, reflects its nostalgic focus. Inside, you might find Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory playing on a large TV screen. The store also organizes theme and movie nights, and has a large outdoor space and gazebo for kids’ parties. It also carries a variety of sodas, gourmet popcorn and Denton-based Beth Marie’s Ice Cream.

Sweet talk:“Every time anybody over 30 walks in the door, the nostalgia’s right there in their face,” Brittan says. “We hear it every day: ‘Oh my God, I haven’t seen this in years!’” Brittan says the store frequently gets requests for candy people remember from their childhood, and she tries her best to fulfill them. One of her most recent was for Fizzies, the candy beverage tablets that turn plain glasses of water into carbonated drinks. After a customer asked for them, she ordered a case — and the candy sold so fast that she’s been struggling to keep re-orders in stock.

Some candies, including Cherry Mash, a chocolate-peanut coating with a soft cherry-flavored center, have even developed a cult following. “One lady was driving all the way to Oklahoma to get it,” Brittan says. “When she found it here, she was very excited.”

Customers come in to buy sweets for candy parties, and not just for kids. “Blue rock candy was popular because of Breaking Bad,” Brittan says (for the uninitiated, the recently concluded AMC drama was about a high-school chemistry teacher who turns to selling particularly pure – and blue – crystal meth). “We had a man come in and ask us to put it in little baggies for him. And he was an attorney that defends drug addicts.”

Her sweet weakness: “I’m a huge fan of Gummi Bears, and the whole Gummi family of candies,” Brittan says. “And Astro Pops. I grew up eating all this candy, and my teeth show it. Candy just makes me happy. And this is a happy environment. Nobody ever frowns here, and even if they do, they leave in a good mood.”

Trick or treat? “I’ve already sold out the Halloween candy,” Brittan says. “We’re trying to get more from distributors. We put it out weeks ago, and it’s already gone. Next year, I’ll be more ready for it. This was our first Halloween.”

What’s the dentist say about all this? “I’ve paid his mortgage for the past year, so I’m sure he loves me deeply,” Brittan says with a laugh.

Hey Sugar Candy Store, 111. S. Oak St., Roanoke, 682-831-9900. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ HeySugar CandyStore

Atomic Candy, Denton

Sweet inspiration: Tim Loyd, the owner of this small store on Denton’s Courthouse Square, had previously run a popcorn and candy store, but he went through a divorce and lost the store. But he wanted to stay in the candy business and open a store of his own.

“I was looking for a small town to put it in, because I wanted the square and the old feel that fell in with the old-timey [atmosphere] we’re trying to pull of,” Loyd says. “Denton Square seemed to fit in really well, because of the two colleges and everything. The funny thing about this business is that the demographic covers everybody, from little bitty kids to old people. Everybody comes in here.”

Before he got into the popcorn/candy-store business, Loyd was a Mercedes-Benz mechanic. “I always wanted to open my own business,” he says. “I was going to open up a [repair] shop, but that kept falling through. I couldn’t find anyplace to put one. I had a friend that owned a popcorn store, so I approached him about getting trained to do that. … I ended up opening my own store, and it took off from there.”

Sweet talk: Loyd says that candy cigarettes and Walnettos (caramel-walnut candies) are among items that can get people talking. “Candy cigarettes, a lot of people think that those are outlawed or something,” Loyd saus. “A weird rumor came out about that. Those are always amusing. Walnettos, those were made famous on Laugh-In. Arte Johnson would sit on the bench and ask that lady if she wanted a Walnetto.” (Ruth Buzzi, who played “that lady,” lives in Fort Worth.)

“Everybody comes in here happy and leaves happy,” Loyd says. “It’s kind of rare for a business to be like that. It’s a fun place.”

His sweet weakness:Cow Tales,” he says. “It’s kind of a caramel wrap [similar to] a Sugar Daddy.”

Trick or treat? “It seems like for Trick or Treat, people will go to the big box stores, because they want the big bags of everything. We don’t see a whole lot of that. Most people buy things for gifts.”

What’s the dentist say about this? “He loves it, of course,” Loyd says. “We tell people we’ve got him set up in the back.”

Atomic Candy, 105 W. Hickory St., Denton, 940-383-3780; http://atomic-candy.com

Blooms Candy & Soda Pop Shop, Carrollton

Sweet inspiration: In 2008, Nicole Meadows, her husband John, their friend Isidiro Iraheta and a few others bought a flower shop (hence the name “Blooms”) in Carrollton’s downtown historic square using credit cards. A year later, they moved to another store on the square.

“We wanted to add something different to the flower shop, so we decided to put candy in half of the store,” Nicole Meadows says. “Well, in another year [2010] we ended up moving to this location, and then we decided to scrap the whole flowers thing and went all candy. We started out in here with like $500 in candy, and now we are at like over 1,000 items.”

The biggest seller? Peanut butter bars, of which the store sells 3 to 5 pounds a week. But the soda selection — heavy on varieties of root beer — is also a huge seller. “ Virgil’s Bavarian Nutmeg, which has a cool bottle, with the old swing lid,” Nicole says. “We sell a ton of that — a case a week.”

Sweet talk: As the owners and staffers heard customers say “Hey, have you ever heard of this candy,” they began having more fun with the store.

“I like investigating and digging, so it started to become like a hunt,” Nicole says. “ ‘Yeah, I can get that! Let’s bring it in.’ And it just exploded. I would say 80 percent of the stuff in here has been somebody asking for it. It’s been really fun.”

So, what was her most challenging thing to hunt? “Oh my God — Nehi. Grape Nehi, peach Nehi, and Delaware punch. Me getting the Nehi was my crowning achievement since I started here. It took me, I think, 18 months. I’ve even had one of my candy suppliers come to me and ask me where I’m getting it from, and I will not tell him. No way. When it comes in, I scrape labels. It was too hard for me to find. It’s a Dr Pepper product, and you know how they are with the regionalized bottling. So I found a way to get it here.”

Besides the usual “I have no idea they still made those” and “I haven’t seen that in years,” Nicole has heard such things from customers as “These used to be a penny when I was a kid” and — perhaps this a hazard of selling nostalgic candy, which makes up about 80 percent of the stock — “Is this fresh? Or is this like antique candy?”

Her sweet weakness: “[Charms] Blow Pops, Dubble Bubble, and occasionally Mary Janes [a peanut butter and molasses-flavored taffy-style candy] and Bit o’ Honeys.”

What does the dentist think of all this? “She actually has shopped in our store,” Nicole says. “She’s a big root beer fan. So we joke about it, but she likes that and the root beer candies.”

Blooms Candy & Soda Pop Shop, 1104 W. Main St., Carrollton, 972-416-5230, www.candycarrollton.com

Pop-N-Cream, Fort Worth

Sweet inspiration: As its name sort of indicates, this store that opened about 3 1/2 months ago in Montgomery Plaza deals largely in gourmet popcorn and ice cream (it sells Blue Bell, but gives it a big twist with the “Two-Step Sundae” — a 24-ounce concoction that’s a sundae on the bottom and a milkshake on the top). But the story also carries a selection of vintage candy, and owner Frank Bowles is going for an overall maltshop/nostalgia factor.

“I have a construction company, and five years ago, I got a call from an individual wanting me to build him a store,” Bowles says. “I had no idea what kind. It turned out to be popcorn and candy. A year later, I built him a third store. So I’ve been studying this concept for five years, and over that time, I’ve come to the conclusion that a natural addition to the popcorn and candy was ice cream.”

One of the more striking things about the store is the furniture: Diner-style tables have stools shaped like bottlecaps, and there’s a firetruck replica that doubles as a table coming out of one wall. Bowles built all that in his garage and his backyard, wanting to design a store that was very kid-friendly. But the firetruck is also a tribute to fallen firefighters and first responders, and Bowles plans future promotions to benefit the families of fallen first responders

Sweet talk: Although Pop-N-Cream’s candy selection is on the small side, Bowles’ customers share stories. “It’s really cool, because so many customers say, ‘Well, this brings back memories of when I was a child,’” he says. “It’s really unique when people walk in, especially ones that have never been here before. They’ll take two or three steps in, they’ll stop, and they’ll just do a view of the whole store. And they start smiling.”

His sweet weakness: Gummy chicken feet. Bowles offers a sample. “Can you tell me what flavor that is?,” he asks (and we can’t answer). “I haven’t been able to figure that out. But they’re good.”

Trick or treat? Even though there’s a Target practically within spitting distance of his store, Bowles says that Pop-N-Cream has seen an increase in business as Halloween approaches. “A lot of people come in because of our variety,” he says. “We have over 300 different flavors of [bulk] candy.”

What’s the dentist say about all this? “I’m afraid to ask,” Bowles says with a laugh. “I think he would probably really be for it, because it generates business for him.”

Pop-N-Cream, 2600 W. Seventh St., Suite 135, Fort Worth, 817-870-5005; http://www.popn cream.com

Staff writer Heather Svokos (Twitter: @hsvokos) contributed to this report.

Robert Philpot, 817-390-7872 Twitter: @rphilpot

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