The Candy Store has but one decoration: candy. Despite its white walls, this tiny sugar-laden Russian Hill boutique is a veritable rainbow of color — giant yellow swirly lollipops, chocolate bars in vintage wrappers, shelves stacked with jar after jar of vivid red and green gummy cherries, hard candy in pastel wrappers, and champagne gumdrops. With more than 300 kinds of candy to choose from, including nostalgia brands, hard-to-find chocolate, and double-salted licorice, there’s something for everybody.
Owner Diane Campbell has always been a candy freak. “I was forbidden candy as a kid so it was on the sneak,” she confesses. Her addiction got her suspended from school for selling candy out of her locker at age ten, and she was on a covert first name basis with the ice cream man. “When I was seven, I’d go to the ice cream man for candy every day. At 3 p.m. I’d ride my bike to the park, get candy, and sneak eat it at home. One day I’m playing outside with my mom and I hear the ringing of the ice cream truck. My mom says, ‘I’ll get you an ice cream cone today.’ I’m panicked. I tell her I don’t want one, but she insists. We walk over and of course the ice cream man says, ‘Hi Diane.’ And my mom says, ‘How do you know my daughter?’ And he says, ‘Know her? She’s my best customer!’”
Diane’s passion for candy is contagious. On my second visit, she pushed a piece of licorice on me. (Yes, I hate it too.) But the “chalk licorice” — a sugar-coated piece of black licorice with a creamy, peppermint-y center — changed my mind. I walked out with a box full.
Every piece of candy in the store has been taste-tested by Diane and her husband, Brian (and samples of the bulk candy are free for the asking). Though they opened the shop in April of this year, they began their research three years ago with the goal of representing the entire world of candy, from sours and gummies to chocolate and licorice. One shelf is devoted to nostalgia candy, like wax bottles and candy lipstick, Big League Chew gum and Pop Rocks. Diane’s childhood favorites get their due as well, with Zagnuts (crunchy peanut butter bar coated in toasted coconut) and maddeningly addictive Mallo Cups (milk chocolate and toasted coconut around a sticky marshmallow center). People also go crazy for Valomilk, Chase’s Cherry Mash, Idaho Spud, and Zotz.
The Candy Store’s chocolate collection includes edible chocolate boxes from local favorite Charles Chocolates, caramel-chocolate pretzels from Utah, four kinds of malted balls (chocolate mint, peanut butter, chocolate, and ultimate dark/milk/white chocolate combo), and 13 chocolate bars from the United Kingdom, including the ever-popular Cadbury Flake, Nestle’s caramel-ly Lion, and the Mars bar (which is more like our Milky Way). Diane’s hands-down favorite is an organic, fair trade butter caramelchocolate bar from Austrian chocolate maker Zotter. “It’s the best chocolate bar I’ve ever tasted in my life,” Diane swoons.
Perhaps surprisingly, what has a lot of people drooling the most is the black licorice selection. Diane stocks more than 15 varieties, most of which come from Holland, and she says the double-salted licorice inspires its own kind of addict. Diabetics also get their due, with nine sugar-free candies.
The most fun offering is the custom-made party favors. Diane will create something for any budget, from small Chinese takeout boxes full of gorgeous chocolate “river stones” (chocolate-covered apricots, marzipan, and almonds) and mini-martini shakers full of chocolate almond nougatine “olives” (the canister can double as a drink maker) to sugar-coma-inducing candy carts you can rent at big events where everyone gets to fill their bags from dozens of sweet treats.
The Candy Store
1507 Vallejo Street at Polk