Quick! How much do you like candy? I mean…REALLY like candy? Ever fantasized about the bust of James Dean created all from those multicolored Cheerio-looking things from which they construct every candy necklace known to man? Ever imagined designing your own candy bar? Ever wish the sweet confections for which you would, and probably have, traded love–romantic and/or otherwise–were just a little bit healthy? Well, then Sweet! Hollywood is the establishment for you!—And right in time for Valentine’s Day no less (hint, hint—but really no PRESSURE!!!)
Home of everything from Beer, Chardonnay, Buttered Popcorn, Watermelon, Cinnabon, Strawberry Shortcake, and Caramel Apple flavored Cotton Candy…To speak nothing of the telltale Nestle Crunch Floormat making a distinctive series of crunches when one’s feet merely traverse across it, Sweet! Hollywood is a feast for all the senses to speak nothing of a feat of originality (boasting foot after foot of candy)!
Part Toy, Novelty, and Sweet Shop, 1/5 Haunted Mansion, part National and International Confectioner’s Market, combined with Candy Factory, Candy Museum, Party Space/Event Arena, and Virtual Disco, this Department Store of Candy has all there is to offer and a bag of chips (either as a side dish or incorporated into your personally designed candy bar)!
Brain Child of Gary Schafner, the store itself takes up a good portion of the second level of the Hollywood and Highland Shopping Mall (up to and including the storefront formerly known as the “Build a Bear” space) and caters unto candy lovers the world over via its very own candy factory, custom made-to-order candy bars, celebrity meet n’ greets, and sports event spaces for any manner of party or corporate festivity under the Starburst Sun, Skittles Rainbow, or one or all three of the Three Musketeers Hats!!!
Boasting fair trade, sustainable, and organic ingredients, the shop includes both a “sticky” candy factory as well as that of the chocolate bar variety!
“Our big draw is the Build your own Chocolate Bar here in our Chocolate Lab,” explains store event planner Evan Marcotte. “For $7.99 you can create your own chocolate bar. We have over 50 inclusions and that’s anything from caramel, to mint, to vanilla, to chocolate hazelnut, as well as anything from hot Cheetos to potato chips, to Rice Krispies, to Macadamia Nuts! …And they’re ready in as little as ten minutes! … [Celebrities] will go inside the lab and pick out their ingredients and make their [signature] bar… All of our chocolate is organic, fair trade chocolate. As far all the other ingredients, we try and go as organic as we can. We make all of our caramel in house. We make all of our sticky candy [in house]. So, all of [the candy that] is made in the store…using only organic sugar.”
I can’t help notice the European Kinder Surprise I enjoyed so much as a child while overseas. To this Marcotte can only respond: “We’re also a good draw for…International candy. We get a lot of candy from Switzerland, from Europe, also from Japan and China. So, if there’s anything that you’re looking for internationally, come check us out, we probably have it!”
But Sweet! Hollywood is not merely a candy emporium to the masses and the stars (or would that be the masses and the gasses? i.e. stars’ main ingredients?—concerning the ones in the Heavenly realm that is…) Sweet! Hollywood caters to the highest profile clientele (in the more collective sense) and beyond via its custom-made candy! “We make chocolate bars for Warner Brothers Studios,” discloses Jonathan Clough: Director of Marketing and Events. “We make them for Hamakua Macadamia nut company in Hawaii, Fess Parker winery up in Santa Ynez, and The Pantages Theatre… Right now, we have Amelie Chocolate bars for Amelie at the Ahmanson Theatre and Cinderella at the Pasadena Playhouse. We do bars for Penn and Teller in Las Vegas, so if you go see Penn & Teller, [the bar is right in the gift shop]. So, we do ‘em for a lot of different places ‘cause you can customize ingredients and customize the box, and have something that’s unique to their location!”
But that’s not all folks! “We do a lot of events a year [including] Birthday parties,” Clough continues. “People can have their Birthday party here, studio after parties for movies here. There are rooms [across the hall from the main store] and we bring in bars and dance floors! We’ve done parties from everybody from Disney to Playboy!”
“Where there was Build a Bear,” I muse.
“Where there was a Build a Bear correct,” confirms Marcotte. “There was a Build a Bear at one time and we took that over and made it an event space… We’re very much into events and we do everything from birthday parties to Bar Mitzvahs. We’ve done bridal showers, baby showers, corporate events. We’ve even gotten into the business of doing concerts. We do our ‘Sing with the Band’ event twice a year, [which] consists of the members of the Mad Tea Party from Disney California Adventure! So…they come in. They have their own separate side band. We get a lot of their fans as well which is a great fundraiser for them because they have their own chocolate bars [too]. Then we also do our Tikki Night event which [happens] once a year. [Funds from] that go to the National MS Society…and it turns into more of a concert atmosphere because we have those Mad Tea Party band members come and put on a show. We’ve had [Disco Diva] Linda Clifford here. We’ve had [Supremes Member] Mary Wilson here. They did a concert earlier in the year as well in that event space. [Both Linda and Mary] also have their own candy bars!”
The party space, which looks out onto the old Masonic Temple doubling as the Jimmy Kimmel Studio is fabulous! Sporting chandeliers, balconies, and arched ceilings galore it resembles a most enchanted tea room with a touch of night club panache all its own! Once across the way and past the actual store’s threshold, there reside all manner of nooks and crannies pairing as theme rooms. The Elvira alcove enchants chocolate noshers all year ‘round in all its Halloween-clad mystique. And just across the way, the glamorousness that is the Rupaul room beckons from its own proverbial catwalk! Both celebs harbor noted tie-ins with Sweet! Hollywood!
“There are three Elvira Candy bars,” Marcotte discloses. “We have a white chocolate with a raspberry jam, so when you’re biting into it, it kind of looks like blood… The dark chocolate has espresso beans in it… It’ll keep you wired! And the milk chocolate has sea salt, pumpkin seeds and a pumpkin spice filling so when you bite into it, it tastes like Fall. It’s great! Rupaul, along with all his merchandise, has two exclusive chocolate bars. The dark chocolate RuPaul bar has a chocolate hazelnut spread as well as cinnamon and then the milk chocolate has sea salt and peanut butter and that’s actually his favorite!”
But Sweet! Hollywood does not merely stop at celebrity candy bars, don’t even get us started on any and all related celebrity events!!!
Aaaand too late! Marcotte cannot resist recollecting the festivities! “Yesterday [we hosted a] signing for Rupaul. We started at 1 in the afternoon and we wrapped up around 5. The great thing is, whenever he comes to our store, he is so great with his fans and spends so much time with everyone. So, we had folks lined up from as early 9:30 in the morning… They were lined up from where our store is, all the way down to the Dolby theatre and then back around again. It was incredible! So, he was here signing the chocolate bars as well as his merchandise… We sell some pretty exclusive items here in the store: His signature fragrance…his own perfume–it’s called Glamazon—it’s floral scented. [We sell his] T-shirts too… We also have some pretty exclusive, out of print items as well. We have his autobiography which is no longer in print… He just came out with a new book—a styling book. It was just released earlier this month [and] he was signing that…as well as some other exclusive posters and some other merchandise. There’s a RuPaul doll that they made in the 90s which you can’t get anywhere now, and we have the last remaining stock of it! It’s pretty cool stuff!
Not only is Rupaul a breath of fresh air spritzed with Glamazon when it comes to his fans, but Elvira is a most gracious hostess with the mostess in the midst of all the ghostessess…
“She is,” confirms Marcotte. “If you go to Dragcon [to meet Rupaul] or if you go to Knotts Scary Farm to meet Elvira, they’re either going to sign a poster, or they’re going to take a picture with you. They’re pretty strict with that. But the great thing about coming here to Sweet! Hollywood is that the celebrities do take their time, and for the purchase of a [custom] candy bar $7.99, you get to meet your celebrity, and you get to spend time with them because we market it on our facebook account, on our Twitter account, and on our website as well! It’s really just us and the celebrities that are marketing this event. So they tend to be a little more low key. We get a little more of the diehard fans, and if you are a fan of RuPaul of Elvira, or of Kathy Garver, you get to spend a lot of time with these people that you wouldn’t normally get to!”
Their celeb tie-ins and candy bars themselves are truly a force to be reckoned with and the author is already quite addicted to the “Cissy” bar: A creation of Kathy Garver herself, i.e. “Cissy” on the 1960s/70s sitcom “Family Affair”. It is made via Garver’s palpable sense of maternal nurturing sensibility and consists of Dark or Milk Chocolate, a thin layer of salted caramel, macadamia nuts and Rice Krispies. Many of the other stars’ bars are quite innovative, as noted above, such that if they weren’t quite so adept at their entertaining profession of origin, one might say their ship had come in—The Good Ship Lollipop that is, by way of the culinary arts!!!
Like all things Hollywood, Sweet! Hollywood has plied their trade, bigger, better, and more originally than any I have ever seen in that of the confectioner’s realm, and the famously paralleled last interview words by Jonathan Clough say it all: “It was all the owner’s idea: Gary Schafner. He wanted to build the world’s greatest candy store so we’re on our way to doing that!”
And no doubt they are and already have!
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