Even before Lucille Ball shoved that first chocolate in her mouth on the iconic candy factory episode of “I Love Lucy” or Gene Wilder crooned about “a world of pure imagination” in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, we’ve been hooked on candy. Candies are little pieces of heaven. And old fashioned candy stores? The Pearly Gates. Luckily, in L.A., we are blessed with some of the sweetest stores around both inside and out. Let’s take you to the candy shops.
This place has been around since … 1897 … as an Italian grocery. Now it carries every kind of soda you could think of (and could never dream of) and has an old school candy selection that is bonkers. You can see the vintage grocery throwback as the candy is in rows and rows in repurposed coolers (almost like pop art) and you do, indeed, grab a shopping cart. Everyone is smiling here and it is not just because they are buying Chuckles (yes, it’s a candy). Need Clark bars, Bit O Honeys, Abba-Zabas, Big Hunks, Fruit Stripe Gum, Zagnuts, and small batch sodas? Go get a cart.
Glendale – Sherman Oaks – Canoga Park
If we could just live in the gummy bear room of the Glendale shop (teddy bear-sized gummies) we would never frown again. Each location is a bit different but all equally charming. There are barrels full of rice crispy treats, sodas from Japan, fancy bon bons, Necco wafers, and anything you can think of covered in chocolate fill rows and rows of glass containers. The Glendale location also boasts an old timey ice cream parlor/soda fountain.
How can you not love the candy shop that inspired the famous Lucille Ball episode? The story goes that Lucy took one look at the candy making machines in the factory part of store and the episode was born. The original 1942 machines still churn out chocolates today with the help of workers (they make 85 different kinds of handmade chocolates in the shop). They had clients like Sinatra back in the day and current sweet tooths include folks like Oprah (Valentine’s Day regular) and Jeffrey Katzenberg. There’s a little taped sign on some chocolate marshmallows that boast they are Madonna’s fave.
They have been making jewel-like mochis (Japanese rice cakes) and manju (rice cakes filled with sweet bean) here since … wait for it … 1903. The confections do indeed look like gems and the family owned/operated store hasn’t changed all that much over the decades—on purpose. The Kito family (who own the shop) has a fascinating history that includes opening the Little Tokyo shop in 1903, internment during WWII, and returning to L.A. and re-opening despite many obstacles.
Various – Universal Citywalk
There are a handful of these super fun, packed candy shops in L.A. We find ourselves at the one at Universal Citywalk the most. Why? The minute you walk through the door you find what you were looking for. Step three feet inside and there it is—Marshmallow Madness. It’s cereal that is only wee shaped, crunchy marshmallows – minus the boring oat cereal part. Yeeeeeeees. They only sell it at these candy shops. Ok. So this isn’t the most PG of stores—they carry SNL faves like Pete’s Famous Schweddy Balls and Colon Blow—but this place will make you giggle. They don’t carry wee boxes of Nerds, they have HUGE ones. Their Chupa Chups Lollis are bigger than your hand. BONUS: If go into Universal Studios/Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the movie-themed sweet shop Honeydukes is awesome. Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans!
We are enthralled by this enormous multi-room candy emporium that opened in 2012 on the top floor of the Hollywood and Highland complex. They are definitely catering to the tourists with all the Hollywood merch, the Famous Monsters of Filmland candy bars series, big pictures of Eminem … made of M&Ms, and rooms dedicated to RuPaul and Elvira, but you can still find every kind of sweet here. Every time we are there we create our own chocolate bar at the Chocolate Lab (milk chocolate, marshmallows, peanut butter, and almonds).
You knew a joint that has been around since 1915 would have a super fine selection of vintage candies, didn’t you? They do. Rows and rows of sweets like Charleston Chews, Dots, Sugar Daddies, and bubble gum cigars. You browse the candy selection while soda fountain diners dig in to massive banana splits.
We pop in these old-timey themed chain candy stores whenever we spot one and spend way more time than we should wandering the aisles. They are your go-to spot for vintage candies, sweets from around the globe, salt water taffy, oddball sodas, and quirky gifts. And you do need a tin sign that orders you to “Come to the dark side. We have cookies.” Yea. You kinda do.
Nicholas Manalisay and Judi Smith’s old-fashioned Powell’s Sweet Shoppe has everything you could ever desire including movies (think: Willie Wonka, Elf) running in a continuous loop above the Dots and Milk Duds on the back wall. They even have wooden theatre-style chairs to sit in and watch for a spell.Little kids hangout for ages and don’t get shoed away. Their selection of Bubble Yum Gum? Impressive.They also serve some fine gelato.
Hollywood tourist trap? Yes. Do they carry princess tiaras? Um. Yes. But every time you walk in to the enormous, retro-esque shop on Hollywood Blvd. someone with a basket full of candies hands you a little square of chocolate. Every time. It’s magic. The place is gorgeous, there are mix and match chocolates in bins and pretty sweets in cellophane bags tied up with ribbons covering every surface. The sundaes at the soda fountain? Really good.
You have to adore the quaint red and white checkered dream in San Pedro’s Ports O’ Call Village that is … Candy Town. It is a retro wonder that has been selling Mallo Cups, Wax Lips, and candy cigarettes since the ’60s. They also sell freakishly large jaw breakers. The kind that don’t even fit in your mouth. So, of course, you need one. And like any good seaside candy shop they carry oodles of salt water taffy.
Kari Mozena is the Special Projects Manager at Los Angeles magazine and LAMag.com. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram. She wrote Wexler’s Just Announced A New Menu Item For The Super Bowl And We Are Freaking Out.