Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Candy Shopping in Los Angeles

I buy the vast majority of the candy I review here right in Los Angeles. Nearly all of it is from the normal places where most people buy their candy: Drug Stores, Grocery Stores and Convenience Stores and a few other specialty spots.

I frequent the following in no particular order:

Walgreen’s: this chain started popping up in Southern California more than six years ago, but didn’t appear in my neighborhood until the Pioneer Market in Echo Park on Sunset Blvd. closed and they took over the spot. They have a nicely organized candy section with a good variety, regular sales and the store is frequented enough that the inventory turns over quickly. I like it after the various candy holidays as their goods go on deeper sale much quicker. (I got Valentine’s candy for 75% off on the 18th and Easter candy the following Saturday.)

CVS: This chain just bought out our old chain called Sav-On. Sav-Ons were on and off of my poop list. I’ve bought expired candy there (before I learned how to read the expiration codes), even bloomed chocolate that was supposed to still be fresh and have found their selection a little lacking. CVS hasn’t been around long enough for me to develop an opinion of them yet, but I like how they don’t treat you like a criminal when you try to enter or exit the store, so points there. (They used to have these gates you had to go through with turnstiles to get in and the only way to get out of the store if you weren’t buying anything was to scoot past people in the checkout line.)

Target: there are several in the area now, each with slightly different layouts and selection. Some of the prices are very good, especially when you find it on sale. They carry their own line of Choxie and can have some incredible after holiday clearances. My favorite one to shop at for candy was in Harbor City and torn down to make way for a newer double-decker model later this year. Holiday clearances can be hit or miss because people make this one of their first stops.

Von’s: this is not my favorite grocery store, but they do have a rather good candy selection, especially when it comes to mid-range candies and gourmet bars (Ritter Sport, for one). The layout of the store that I frequent on Sunset Blvd. in Los Feliz happens to have a season candy display right at the entry of the store, so it’s an easy stop for me to make on my way home from work. They also seem to carry a lot of limited edition candies.

Trader Joe’s: this store chain has lots of fans for good reason. Good quality food at great prices. They make you work for it though, with narrow, crowded aisles, difficult parking and long lines. They carry house-brand candies as well as great imported and domestic items at unheard of prices.

Ralph’s: there are a few locations near to me, but I usually go a bit further afield to a location in Glendale (near the Petco and Cost Plus World Market). They usually have a huge selection of holiday candies (and companion clearance) as well as one of the few bulk candy selections I’ve found in SoCal. I don’t use the bulk bins, only the dump feeder bins (that way I know no one else has been putting their greasy paws on the goodies).

7-11: the largest convenience store chain in the US, they’re known not only for a location for a quick drink fix, but also their inventory of single-serving candies but also as one of the best sources for limited edition candies. When choosing a regular store, I look for one that has a candy aisle that does not face the large plate glass windows, which can cause chocolate candies to bloom. Prices are steep but if the store has good foot-traffic they candy is always fresh.

Cost Plus World Market: an import market that features furniture, housewares and food. Their candy selection is excellent, though the freshness is sometimes questionable for the niche candies. Prices can range from reasonable to strangely high. At Christmas they have a wide selection of imported sweeties from all over the world and an equally fun post-holiday sale.

Specialty Stores:

Munchies: In West Los Angeles in an orthodox Jewish neighborhood, they have an amazing selection of bulk goods but also a lot of Israeli stuff. Pretty low key place with decent prices. Skip the ordinary stuff here and take a risk on the imported goodies.

Mel & Rose’s Wine & Spirits: If you’re in the mood for seeing a great selection of high-end chocolate bars & boxed chocolates, check out Mel & Rose’s Wine & Spirits on Melrose Blvd. They also have a huge selection of imported consumer candies from Australia and Europe at decent prices. They’re not far from the Beverly Center and Pacific Design Center just on the border of Beverly Hills.

The Candy Baron: This is a small chain in California, I found them to be pretty good, they carry a lot of regional favorites and of course bulk goods. They’re in Santa Monica. I don’t recommend a special trip for them, but if you’re down by the Promenade/Third Street/The Pier it might be worth it:

The Grove and the Farmers Market is a great option for “one stop shopping” in LA. The Grove is an upscale mall attached to the original LA Farmers Market.

In the Farmers Market there’s a stand called Ultimate Nut & Candy. No great shakes (but they do have good toffee popcorn) but an admirable selection of bulk candies behind the counter along with dipped dried fruits and nostaligic fare.

There’s also a Fudge & Toffee shop called Littlejohns. I’ve had their fudge, which I think is decent, but their pecan pralines & caramel marshmallow kisses are my favorites. (I haven’t tried their toffee yet.)

Tucked inside the south east corner is a place called Mr. Marcels - it’s the upscale grocer for the market and they carry quite a few imported candies. Prices are a bit inflated for imported mass-produced goodies, but a good selection and they seem to have a good turnover of product to keep it fresh.

Also in the compound is Cost Plus World Market (see above) Around the corner from that is a place called Duck Soup that carries regional candy bars and retro favorites.

India Sweets & Spices: this is a small chain of vegetarian India food served cafeteria-style along with a grocery store. I’ve visited the location in Los Feliz and found a decent selection of European (mostly UK) candy bars. For some reason they keep them in the refrigerator case all year round.

Asian Sweets:

Little Tokyo is the ultimate location for candy in Los Angeles not just for Japanese goodies (though that’s the best reason to go there).

Mitsuwa: a grocery chain, found mostly in California but also a New Jersey location. They have all the standard Japanese fare (Pocky, HI-Chew, KitKat, etc.) plus Hawaiian goodies and some Chinese. Excellent prices, especially given that these are imported. (Most times I get regular Pocky for 99 cents a box.) I go to the one on Alameda and 3rd Street.

Nijiya Market: a small grocer in the Japanese Village Plaza with an excellent selection of take-away meals, snacks and candies. Good prices, fresh inventory and great location in the heart of the pedestrian area.

Marukai: clean and bright, excellent selection and location in Weller Court. They also carry a large selection of American consumer candies.

Fugetsu-Do: Los Angeles’ oldest purveyor of fresh-made Wagashi and Mochi. Red bean, white bean, soy and even peanut butter. They also have a moderate selection of Japanese candy standards.

Chinatown is also an excellent source of sweets, I’ve not fully explored it though I’ve made plenty of visits.

Okay, if you live in Los Angeles or have visited, where is a good place to get candy? (I’m still looking for a good store to get bulk candies at a decent price.)

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:44 am Tracker Pixel for Entry     CandyLos AngelesShopping7-1199 Cent Only StoreCost PlusDollar TreeRalph'sRite AidSav-On/CVSTargetVon'sWalgreen's

  1. Thanks so much for this post! I live in Northeast LA, and I just shopped today at a place in South Pasadena called “Family Fair.” It’s on Meridian. It has lots of tempting glass jars full of colorful candies, many old fashioned standards like those licorice scottie dogs and zotz, but also some special things like chocolate covered cookie dough bits and interesting fruit chewie things.

    I also used to shop at Zanzabelle on Rowena (in Silverlake). Lots of interesting gifties and funky candies there.

    Can’t wait to see the other suggestions!

    Comment by Jennifer Grappone on 4/17/07 at 5:51 pm #
  2. you asked, so off the top of my head: 

    Bristol Farms - definitely try the one at Beverly and Doheny, not far from the Beverly Center.  they have bulk candy and unique truffles in a special bakery/candy section, as well as an aisle devoted to chocolate bars and candies from all over the world. Seasonal candy stock is pretty good too.

    Vicente Foods, at San Vicente and Bundy in Brentwood.  Pretty similar to Bristol Farms, but without the homemade truffle bakery.

    Gelsons - can’t say for sure that their candy supply is amazing, but in terms of Grocery stores, they are the BEST.  You can usually find anything there.

    Famima (a fairly new asian styled 7-11) has a pretty cool (but small) selection of asian candies. There’s one at the promenade, westwood, and a few others in LA

    For really, really cheap, odd, hit-or-miss candy, try Big Lots.  There’s one near National and Sepulveda, and one in Culver City.  They are like a drugstore version of Ross.

    and I think you will warm up to CVS. My favorite drugstore, for candy and all other goodies.

    If I’m missing anything, I’ll get back to you!


    Comment by Caitlin on 4/17/07 at 6:56 pm #
  3. Great selection of stores for mid range or modest/lower qaulity chocolate candy. But I got to differ with you comparing gourmet chocolate to Ritter Sport. In the gourmet chocolate world, Ritter Sport would not be considered some of the better chocolates. Also, any store that keeps their chocolate in the refrigerator does not know how to properly store chocolate, although for some reason refrigeration does not affect the poorer quaulity chocolates. Buying good chocolate is like buying good wine, I would not look for good wine or good chocolate at a 7-11.

    Comment by DS on 4/18/07 at 2:35 am #
  4. Cybele's avatar

    Jennifer - I’ll put Family Fair on my list of places to visit. Sounds like it’d be a nice stop after a weekend brunch.

    Caitlin - I forgot all about the dollar stores! I’m not that keen on the Big Lots in Hollywood, but I should try some others.

    I also need to try another Famima. They opened one much closer to me recently and I should stop in again (the last time I went it was less than thrilling, but it was raining and some of the shelves were downright empty).

    Good call on Bristol Farms & Gelsons. I don’t go in there often, but I usually do end up with something sweet in my basket.

    DS - I’m not comparing Ritter to gourmet, it’s actually classified that way in the grocery categories. I cover high-end and mass-consumer stuff in the same way ... as I experience it. I think Ritter is underrated, it’s good quality chocolate with some great flavor combos.

    I also mentioned the fridge at India Sweets because it is not really a good idea (though melting and resolidifying is an even worse one). Since their product line is mostly UK “vegelate” I’m not sure the bars suffer for it.

    Comment by Cybele on 4/18/07 at 6:44 am #
  5. Is your Walgreen’s having a super duper post Easter sale like mine is?  Dude…2 big carts full of 10? candy- mostly crap and Russell Stover Eggs. I tried a Reese’s egg today, which I hadn’t eaten in over 20 years.  The chocolate/peanut butter ratio was so off.  The Snicker’s Sports egge was equally disappointing - but hey, 10? - whatever.  For 10?, I would have bought freakin’ Circus Peanuts - just to use for packing material.

    Comment by joanna on 4/18/07 at 2:40 pm #
  6. Someone else mentioned Famima!! They seem to be opening one just about everywhere. Also, I like hitting the Mercado Chocolate Loco at Universal CityWalk from time to time.

    Comment by Jodi on 4/19/07 at 6:59 pm #
  7. I’d recommend Jack’s Wholesale Candy & Toy (8th St./Central Ave) in downtown Los Angeles. They sell tons of bulk candies at wholesale prices!
    If you are like me, a 5lb bag of gummies can dissapear in a week!
    They also cater to wedding planners looking to create a candy buffet! What they don’t have in store can be ordered.
    They have the sweetest deals!

    Comment by Natasha on 6/08/09 at 10:07 am #
  8. How about Alpine Village, Torrence exit off 110 Fwy.
    Interesting choices of European Candies…
    Chocolate Covered Marzipan Bars, Mozarts, Flavored glucose energy tablets. Bags of German bulk Candy.

    Great Deli Counter. The Sausages!!!
    Don’t care much for the pastries I have tried, pretty but mostly tasteless. Breads have been so-so.

    All in all a fun place to pick up an instant picnic
    Get some Senf[German Mustard] in a tube, Mayo {also tube-type} some cold cuts & fresh bread, a cold German Brew, a few candy treats… You’re set!

    Comment by Gregory Mitchell on 10/11/11 at 7:56 am #
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