Powell’s Vintage Candies Hit Sweet Spot for Valentine’s Day

| February 8, 2012 | 2 Comments
  • 2 Comments

conversation hearts

Instead of arming Cupid’s bow with an arrow dipped in the latest chocolate-cayenne-goji berry-sea salt-caramel to woo your sweetheart, aim for your honey’s inner child with a retro sugar rush from Powell’s Sweet Shoppe in Berkeley (or other Bay Area locations).

The Valentine table is carpeted in conversation hearts—speaking dialects from Disney princess to Sponge Bob Square Pants—plus a blanket of red and pink jelly beans and cupid corn, valentine Dots, kiss me mints, chocolate covered marshmallow hearts and XOXO lollipops.

It’s easy to get lost in a sugar-coated trip down memory lane browsing the College Avenue shop’s collection of 6000 classic candies in varieties that date from the 20s to the 80s.

Shahrazad Junblat

The real fun starts with a perusal of the bags and bars on the nostalgia table that run from Abba-Zabba’s to Zotz. “This is where childhood memories are reawakened,” says Shahrazad Junblat, co-owner of the shop with her sister and brother-in-law. “I always hear customers exclaim, ‘Oh my God, I haven’t seen this since I was 5,’ or ‘ Grandma always used to buy me this.’” The vintage treats include: Look!, Big Hunk, Moon Pie, Sugar Babies, pastel button dots on strips of paper, Turkish taffy and Nik-L-Nip wax bottles filled with sweet syrup.

turkish taffy

For the sweetest history lesson ever, check out the Candy by the Decade chart on Powell’s website.

Did you know that Bit-O-Honey, Butterfinger, Charleston Chew and Jujubees go way back to the early 1900s?

If you are a 50s Boomer, you’ll remember Fizzies, Pixy Stix, and Hot Tamales.

Flower Child of the 60s? Fruit Stripe gum, Twizzlers and Lemonheads should ring a bell.

Wore Jordache Jeans in the 70s? Pop Rocks and Ring Pops came out in your decade.

Played Pac Man in 80s? Maybe while chomping Runts and Nerds.

Junblat left the corporate world after 20+ years to cheerfully preside over “this happy place.” She personally favors the British imports, including Cadbury bars, Rountree’s Fruit Gums and Aero bubble chocolate, aptly housed in a red British phone booth. Additional foreign imports satisfy both world travelers and expats, such as Australian Kookabura licorice and Violet Crumble bars. Famous Dutch licorice is represented by licorice coins, hard licorice buttons, and salty salmiak rocks.

gummi eggs
Gummis range from butterflies, penguins and mice to khaki green army guys and even sunnyside up eggs.

bacon lollipops
Asked for the latest trend in candy, Junblat quickly replies, “Bacon is the new black.” And points to a table with bacon flavored floss, toothpaste, chocolate, fizzy drinks and lollipops.

melody pops
Some sweets perform a double duty, like candy beaded necklaces and Melody pops that play a tune.

All manner of jawbreakers sit in jars, from teensy marbles to huge orbs the size of a baby’s head. Aaron Lindstrom, shift manager, admits to keeping a gigantic jawbreaker hidden in a paper bag under his bed when he was in the third grade. He secretly worked on it for months until it was gone.

candy collage

Powell’s most helpful website also lists candies for those with dietary restrictions and preferences.

It’s nice to know that vegans can still enjoy Swedish Fish, Chick-O-Sticks, Hot Tamales and Boston Baked Beans.

There’s a large number of gluten-free goodies too.

I noticed that the list of candies without high fructose corn syrup includes Gummi Brains, Banana Heads and Smarties.

Does this somehow indicate that people who avoid the stuff are more intelligent?

breakfast floss

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Category: bay area, Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, dessert and chocolate, holidays and traditions, kids and family, local food businesses, vegetarian and vegan

About the Author ()

My passion is exploring the connection between food and culture. I write regularly for Oakland and Alameda Magazines and Berkeleyside's NOSH. My blog, East Bay Ethnic Eats, gives me an excuse to track down the only Bay Area baker making fresh filo dough or learn to stuff a dried eggplant with help from a Turkish immigrant. Culture is the thread that ties together my several careers. As a sign language interpreter, educator and author, my study of Deaf culture has taken me around the world, where I fell madly in love with seed-strewn Danish bread, attacked platters of French shellfish with a small arsenal of tools and sampled a Japanese breakfast so fresh it wiggled. I'm also an epicurean concierge for Edible Excursions Japan town tours (that I lead in either English or ASL). And when I conduct in-depth cultural trainings for foreign workers being transferred to the Bay Area, I am sure to discuss the delights of doggie bags and the mystery of American restaurants serving ice water in the dead of winter. I can be found tweeting @EBEthniceats