You can buy British candy bars at Ye Olde King's Head in Santa Monica, sample Mexican caramels at La Zamorana in East LA, and stock up on Persian sweets at Sun Market in Westwood, but until this month your Scandinavian candy selection was extremely limited.
Sockerbit, which opened on West 3rd Street on April 19, means sugarcube in Swedish. "It's also the name of our signature candy - a candy-coated white marshmallow," says co-owner Stefan Ernberg.
A few years ago, Ernberg and his wife Florence Baras were looking for a career change that would take them out of Europe. "I used to go to the candy store every day," says Ernberg of his childhood. "And no one really sells Swedish candy in the States," he explains of how Sockerbit was born. The pair started with an online store and then opened their first shop in New York in 2011.
The signature matte-white sockerbit candy also serves as the shop's design inspiration. The store's interior - not unlike peering into the inside of a marshmallow - is mostly eggshell white with spots of shiny signage. It's clean, minimalist design befitting a concept out of Stockholm.
There's a small grocery section to one side where you can pick up Swedish meatballs ("I promise you, they are so much better than Ikea's!" says Ernberg), lingonberry sauce, crackers, cookies, juice and more. There's also a home decor section in the rear of the store with adorable children's toys, plush towels and modern kitchenware. Think: Ikea, but designer, and with no assembly required.
A long row of staggered clear plastic bins lines one side of the shop. Each square bin is filled with every candy-lover's dream: sweets in every shape, flavor and color imaginable. The smell of sugar and the vibrant colors make it all easy to identify as candy, but that's where the familiarity ends. Unless you grew up in Sweden, or like to vacation in Stockholm, it's likely that you have never seen or tasted candy like this. Banana marshmallows, gummy mice, sour strawberry wrenches, caramel-flavored marshmallow mushrooms, gooey blackberry chews, and dozens of types of licorice beckon. In fact, it's Sockerbit's salty licorices - known as salmiak in Swedish - that are the real stand-out.
Flavored with ammonium chloride, they're surprisingly salty - even slightly acidic - but they're usually wrapped in a berry-flavored chew or fill the center of a hard candy shell. The saltiness brings out the flavor of the candy component and balances out all of that cloying sugar. "Every Swede grows up with this candy," says Ernberg. "It's part of our DNA."
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Ernberg and Baras have moved to L.A. to oversee their West Coast expansion. They plan to continue opening Sockerbit locations over the next few years. "I love watching people come into the shop," says Ernberg, "everyone is like a kid in a candy store."
Sockerbit is now open daily from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. (hours may vary over the summer).