Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Dylan’s Candy Bar and Candy Bars

One of the most talked-about candy stores in New York City has to be Dylan’s Candy Bar. Unlike Economy Candy, Dylan’s is all about display and experience. Also unlike Economy Candy: you pay a premium.

imageLocated on Third Avenue at 60th Street - it’s a tony address - though not quite Park Avenue it is kitty-corner from Bloomingdale’s. If I could compare the store to something it would be FAO Schwartz. The store is brightly lit and on two levels. The street level boasts a large ice cream bar and featured huge Easter displays when I visited. The ceiling fixtures and shelves are candy themed, with large panels looking like some sort of vine of lollipops growing into the ceiling and large rainbow colored candy canes.

Dylan’s Candy Bar sells a huge range of products, both edible and wearable. The big feature, of course, is candy. The cornerstone is bulk candy and the bins are everywhere. They had a huge selection of all the sugar candy you can think of: gummis, Jelly Belly, Dubble Bubble flavored gumballs and licorice. They have chocolate too, from M&Ms (Colorworks), chocolate covered Oreos and malted milk balls as well as their own line of fine chocolates and flavored Belgian chocolate bars.

imageThere were plenty of folks on hand to help out, none of the lines were very long (I expected the place to be crowded before Easter, but I did make sure to go on a weekday at lunch instead of on the weekend). The salesfolk seemed knowledgeable about the inventory too, which is a pretty big accomplishment with such a wide number of products. The prices for the bulk candies ran about $9.99 and they had some funky stuff, not just in the bulk bins but some fun displays. They had a HUGE selection of PEZ and a great big display of favorite candies chosen by famous people on the lower level. (Frankly, I don’t care much what famous people eat ... I’ll probably care when they ask me to do a custom mix.) There’s lots to look at and do in the store and I saw some children running around having the time of their lives (and their parents looked pretty pleased, too).

Their website features quite a few regional candy bars, so I was hoping to find an Idaho Spud, but it seems that they were fresh out. But I was able to find my Nut Goodie there and I also picked up a few other items that I’ll write about soon. There were also some funky items in the bins, like banana flavored gummi bears and a large selection of candy sticks in a wide variety of flavors and lollipops of all shapes, sizes and colors.

imageAs I mentioned, Dylan’s Candy Bar has their own line of chocolate bars, so I picked up a nice assortment. They come in 10 different flavor combinations, but I picked of the little 1.75” tasting squares as an introduction:

Dark Raspberry - it was a nice dark chocolate bar. Not terribly sweet with a good overtone of raspberry essence to it, but none of the tart bite. The berry flavors mixed well with the earthy and fruity notes of the chocolate itself.

Dark - glossy and dark, there was no indication of the cocoa content here or on the website. It was nice, a little on the smoky side, but very smooth and a tad bit sweet.

Hazelnut - this bar is in the Guanduja-style, the first ingredient is hazelnut paste and the rest of the bar is made up of milk chocolate. It’s soft and creamy and a bit sticky feeling. The overwhelming flavor here is not the hazelnuts but the whole milk powder. The nuts add a level of satisfaction to the bar, but the milkiness just beats the nuttiness out of it to my dismay.

Dark Espresso (unwrapped) - a nice snap but a fair bit of grain in this bar from the ground coffee in it. The coffee flavor itself was good but completely overwhelmed the chocolate flavors and it seemed much sweeter than the Raspberry bar.

Can you tell I’m underwhelmed?

Maybe it started with their frustrating website, maybe I’m spoiled, but I want more info on my purchases. (I had a similar experience in the store.) Maybe I have no idea what a clodhopper is and the clothing ... maybe they could give me info on the fiber content. I want to know how much is in the package, and I want some indication of ingredients. 

Maybe the article I read last year about Dylan Lauren rubbed me the wrong way and that’s colored my evaluation of the store. The NY Times line that got me was this:

Ms. Lauren considers herself the model for the sparkling creature around which her business is coalescing: the Candy Girl, who appears every now and again in conversation. As in: ?The Candy Girl can be sexy and young and thin. Candy?s not about fat people.”

What’s most interesting is that as I was there, I did not see “The Candy Girl” shopping there. I’m not the sexy, young, thin woman she pursues as a demographic (though maybe two out of four counts). As much as she might be positioning herself that way, the store is about kids - the displays obviously acknowledge that as there was quite a bit of the merchandise marketed to the under-four-foot set. While the store makes it socially acceptable for an adult to come in there and make a purchase(s), a destination like this will always be about children.

The other frustration is the price. Candy bars like the Nut Goodie I picked up are $1.49 and the bulk candy, such as Swedish Fish, in a plain plastic bag is $9.99 a pound. The same candy bar at Economy Candy is $.69 and probably about $1.00 at any of the many corner stores in NYC. The same Swedish Fish at Economy Candy were $3.49 a pound. What are you paying for here? Convenience of the address? Packaging? Isn’t that what Ralph Lauren has been selling us for years anyway? Except RL wasn’t taking Levi’s 501s and slapping his own logo on them and selling them for $100 a pair. Is Dylan’s Candy Bar doing that by taking other brands of candy and just dumping them into a clear plastic paint can?

Though I struggle with the the premium I pay at Vosges or Jacques Torres (which is like a fantasy land as well) I can rationalize it because they own their merchandise; they formulated it, they invented it, they make it. When I go into a mega-mart like Target or Toys-r-Us I expect better prices. Dylan’s just throws all of those expectations out the window. Sure, they have their own line of chocolates, but they sell everyone else’s too. They’re just selling you a brand, a bag and a logo. Sure, I have a similar complaint with the candy stores in malls where everything is in bulk bins and they’re selling it all for $8 a pound, whether you’re picking up plain old peppermint hard candies, gummi bears or M&Ms. But when I’m in Santa Rosa, CA, my candy store choices are limited and I accept the premium for variety. Dylan’s is in NYC, one of the most candy cities I’ve ever visited and Economy Candy is a scant four miles away.

I did enjoy browsing the displays, but the frugal part of me couldn’t get over the prices or the sheer gall of selling something that probably cost about $2 a pound wholesale for $10. There were candies there that I haven’t been able to find in other stores, so I appreciate that there were unique items there and there was a wide price range as well so you could get out of there with a bag of candy for under $5 with careful decision making. Part of the attraction of candy for me has always been its affordability and Dylan’s takes that part of the fun away. It’s no longer a simple pleasure, it’s an expensive one.

As the Candy Blogger, I’ll probably return. But as a simple candy consumer, it’s not a place I’d patronize. I found my second home in New York, it’s Economy Candy.

Dylan’s Candy Bar
1011 Third Avenue (between 60th and 61st street)
New York, NY 10021
(646) 735-0078

Name: Dylan's Candy Bars: Dark, Hazelnut, Dark Raspberry, Dark Espresso
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Dylan's Candy Bar
Place Purchased: Dylan's Candy Bar (NYC)
Price: $.50 each
Size: unknown
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Belgium, Coffee

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:10 am Tracker Pixel for Entry    

  1. I find that in places like this, I tend to browse and check the place out. But for purchases, I take myself somewhere with better prices. It was the same when I went to FAO Schwartz.  It was a blast to look around the store and check out all the cool stuff but I never bought anything there because of the jacked up prices.  The store itself was the attraction…. kind of like a museum in a way. 

    I’m with you. I’ll pay the premium prices for a unique and high-quality item but not for the run of the mill candy I can get anywhere.

    Comment by g on 4/26/06 at 8:22 am #
  2. Woof! I can’t imagine what her rent must be.

    The rich are different from you and me…

    Comment by desertwind on 4/26/06 at 9:18 am #
  3. Your write up on the difference between these two stores is right on!  I went to Dylan’s first but when I discovered Economy it was like discovering God.  Or religion.  Or something…

    Good move on not heading to Dylan’s on the weekend either. The few trips I have made there are usually on Saturdays - it makes you never want to see another kid again.

    Comment by Colleen on 4/26/06 at 9:29 am #
  4. they had idaho spud when we went!

    Comment by rachel on 4/26/06 at 10:31 am #
  5. Cybele's avatar

    g - I’m glad I’m not the only one who shops this way!

    desertwind - there was just another story in the papers about her - the store is 10,000 square feet ... on a corner in NYC ... phew! (I also heard that the company still isn’t turning a profit yet. I guess if your father is one of the top 100 richest people in the company it’s a drop in the bucket.)

    Colleen - yeah, I’m not a big fan of other people’s kids in large quantities.

    rachel - yeah, they seemed to be oddly low on the retro bars, I didn’t see quite a few favorites (even ones I’ve had before including the Valomilk). Maybe that’s what’s supposed to make me come back.

    Comment by Cybele on 4/26/06 at 2:02 pm #
  6. A few years ago my boss brought back a box of Dylan’s milk chocolate squares for the office (he wasn’t being nice, he got it as a gift at a party). I was delighted to try this tiny piece of something from the big city that had gotten so much press. Like you, I was underwhelmed. It was bland and oversweet and not much better than cheapo dime store chocolate, except for being better (over)packaged. Like her dad’s clothes, Ms. Lauren seems to think that brand and price are equivalent to quality.

    Comment by JR on 4/26/06 at 4:32 pm #
  7. Amen.

    I have to say, I’ve never been to Dylan’s for the exact reasons you just stated. Plus, I don’t feel like endorsing a “Candy Girl” who gets this store from her “Sugar Daddy” (har har I made I joke) and claims that candy isn’t just for “fat people”.


    Comment by Sera on 4/26/06 at 4:35 pm #
  8. Cybele's avatar

    JR - I agree, much of it seems to be “lowest common denominator”. It turns out that Dylan doesn’t even like chocolate much, so I guess that’s why she hasn’t invested in making good chocolate. Folks who want inexpensive but nicely packaged chocolates should probably look at Dove or See’s for good value.

    Sera - I’m glad I’m not alone in the distaste at the statements she makes.

    Comment by Cybele on 4/27/06 at 6:24 am #
  9. Although there is a markup on the candy itself the museum like nature of the store only causes me to encourage similair stores.  It’s not everyday you can walk through a store and actually have a museum like experiance. I don’t mind the mark up. Seeing a vision of an artists eye come to life is priceless.

    Comment by Crystal on 3/14/07 at 5:54 am #
  10. How to i call if i won to plan a party for my child
    (do not put this up)

    Comment by person on 1/30/08 at 2:40 pm #
  11. Glad I read your comments! I was planning a trip to the “famous” candy store this fall! Thanks for the heads up. Good to know ahead of time if I’m wasting my time and money on poor quaility chocolate, maybe they should take a line from Godiva!!

    Comment by Glenda on 9/10/08 at 5:22 pm #
  12. i never been there because i live very far but i want to be a sales engineer when i grow up i plan on saling the world greatest candies ever i discovered u when i had to seach a sight 4 wat i want to be also im 11 yrs old i would like if i could know how it feels plus i already started selling my own candy. hear from u later.

    Comment by dominique on 10/26/08 at 4:53 pm #
  13. BUYER BEWARE:  my son splurged and bought me a nostalgia pack of 1960s candy for $35.  It was advertised as “filled to the brim”. We were shocked to find almost 1/2 filled with shredded paper.  When i called and emailed to complian - No one has even returned a single message.  Even a voice mail directly to the PRESIDENT has gone un-answered.  SHAME ON YOU DYLAN’S

    Comment by Shyam on 6/10/10 at 12:44 pm #
  14. Hi, I just finished watching The Price Is Right, and Drew said if we log unto their website, we would get free candy from Dylans, the Most famous and largest candy store in the USA.  I did log on, but could find no way to fill out a form, so am asking if you can direct me as to how I may get your free candy.  Your help would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks.  (4/25/2011)

    Comment by Eileen Kirkham on 4/25/11 at 9:25 am #
  15. Does Dylan’s Candy Bar make their own candies? Ithink they do, right? So, does that mean Dylan Lauren also has her own candy factories and a group of food technologies and such?

    Comment by Mikaelo on 1/10/13 at 10:38 pm #
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