By Emma Fingleton
This Valentine’s Day, don’t settle for chalky sweethearts and waxy foil-wrapped hearts that are only chocolate in color. You’ve probably (hopefully) traded your Betty Crocker funfetti mix and Elio’s pizza for something that doesn’t taste suspiciously of cardboard, so upgrade your Valentine’s Day sugar fix at one of these sweet stores.
- Economy Candy
Lower East Side, D to Grand St.
Speaking of economies, let’s begin at the quintessential NYC candy store. Open since 1937, Economy is an explosion of colors that hits you as soon you open the door to the small store, with an inventory that is anything but. Crammed with every type of candy imaginable, from the candy button-studded paper no one really likes to bags of seemingly every gummy candy in existence, to a central table piled several feet high with boxes of both retro and modern candy bars, Economy is where the answer to the question of “do you have this candy?” is almost always a resounding yes.
Dozens of dispensers full of jelly beans and M&Ms tower over the back of the store, while an entire spinning rack is devoted to lollipops the size of your head.
My favorite part is the respectable selection of British candy featuring most of my favorites, from Crunchies and Maltesers to Dairy Milk bars and the superior-to-American-produced Kit Kats. Other European imports pile the shelves as well, such as the German import Ritter Sport bars (of which I recommend the cornflake and hazelnut bars) and the purple-wrapped creamy milk chocolate Milka bars from Switzerland. The requisite glass candy counter running along the left of the store is filled with classic truffle flavors and other handmade confections such as almond bark, s’mores, chocolate-covered Oreos, pretzels and caramels. The store is also known for its huge selection of nuts and dried fruit; perfect for people without a sweet tooth. Everything in the store seems to be priced very reasonably, even though most of it is either imported or niche. Economy is the place you can and should keep returning to, whether it’s to purchase a childhood favorite or to stumble upon a new candy.
West Village, D to West 4th
As a Swedish-expat owned candy store specializing in Scandinavian candies, Sockerbit prides itself in carrying a wide variety of licorices, as well as more recognizable Scandinavian versions of candy, such as sour skulls, non-pareils and the requisite Swedish fish. The complete opposite of the excess of Economy Candy, Sockerbit’s store aesthetic reflects the countries of the candies it carries. The sleek, minimalist interior allows its wares to act as decoration; stored in serve-yourself clear bins, the colorful striped licorice, sour and gummy candy and marshmallows bring splashes of color to the otherwise all-white store. It’s mostly sold by weight as most of the candy is “smågodis,” small candy in Swedish. Sockerbit’s candies are all GMO-free and made with natural colors too. Sockerbit is perfect for trying new candies and combining them all for a sugary smorgasbord. Plus, at $12.99 a pound, you get to experience high Scandinavian prices without having to fly all the way to Copenhagan or Stolkholm.
Dylan’s Candy Bar
4 to Union Square, 4 to 59th St. for Upper East Side
My middle school years were marked by weekend trips to the mall with my friends. While those minivan-enabled laps of the mall wearing Aeropostale’s finest under my ratty Northface were certainly not the high point of my life, our constant stop at Dylan’s outpost is a treasured memory. They always had a chocolate fountain in the window–not that we needed any enticing–and a huge array of pick-yourself candy scattered throughout the store. While the Dylan’s of Roosevelt Field mall is no more, there are still Manhattan locations with the same excellent marketing and overpriced candy that continue to reel me in. Full of personalized candy bars, plastic bins dispensing every gummy, sour and chocolate candy imaginable and a thumping sweets-themed playlist, Dylan’s is your Candyland dreams come to life.
Dylan’s is more a store of nostalgia than of necessity; you can certainly get the same candy for less at other stores, even in Manhattan, and the gimmicks of Dylan’s aren’t worth the high prices (find me someone who can chew a jawbreaker the size of a softball). However, it’s a good store to peruse if you’re waiting in line for the equally-gimmicky Serendipity 3 down the block on the Upper East Side or wasting time near Union Square.
Outposts in Grand Central and Chelsea Market
Another NYC candy institution, Li-Lac has been crafting chocolates from its Greenwich Village storefront for 90 years. Its glass cases display classic chocolates, where the most daring flavor may be the salt sprinkled on the caramels, but its chocolates are creamy and rich enough to not need the trendy flavors or techniques used by newer chocolatiers. You won’t find any candy here, but you will find exquisite chocolates from truffles to chocolate-covered oranges and buttercrunch to old-school cherry cordials and coconut clusters, all made fresh in the store and sold by weight. Their pecan chews and salted caramels are particularly good. Li-lac is perfect for parent gifts or for when you want to feel fancy.
The Sweet Life
Lower East Side, D to Grand St.
This is the spot for people like me who eschew gummy and sour candy for anything chocolate. Inside the chocolate-brown striped awning, you will find a huge selection of chocolate truffles, barks and caramels, as well as anything you could imagine covered in milk or dark chocolate. Their chocolate-covered stroopwafels and enormous dark chocolate peanut butter cups are divine, although they will leave a dent in your wallet. Like Economy, they boast an impressive range of dried fruit and nuts as well as imported candy and chocolate as well, although with slightly higher prices and less variety. Overall, The Sweet Life is perfect for chocolate lovers who don’t mind paying a little extra for creative fillings and high-quality chocolate.