Known as the Candy Queen, Jackie Sorkin and global retail and brand executive Amy Kavanaugh Mason have partnered up to open Candified in Long Beach, the first of its kind interactive retail candy store, where kids of all ages can shop, create and celebrate.
Located on the buzzy Second Street strip, the colorful store isn’t your typical beachside candy shop overstocked with saltwater taffy. You don’t have to have a sweet tooth to be lured into the store by the window display filled with life-sized jungle creatures covered in hundreds of thousands of gummy bears and sour candies, a signature part of Sorkin’s Candytopia past.
Not only are the aisles filled with nostalgic sweets like Zagnuts, Slo Pokes and Mallo Cups, but there are also rows of chocolates, gummies, tik tok pacifiers and pop rings, as well as the latest candy craze they can’t keep on the shelves — freeze-dried options like sour worm crunchies, fruity twists, caramel apple puffs and slime lickers.
“They love anything interactive,” Orange County native Sorkin tells L.A. Weekly in the slime licker aisle of the store. “They scoop up the Fun Works items like this one, where you use slime to write a note on an edible memo pad, kind of an analog version of a disappearing social media message. It tastes like a communion wafer, but the kids love it. Anything that’s interactive, sour, or you can wear just flies off the shelves.”
But perhaps the most interactive and popular of all is the Creation Station in the back of the store, where groups of mini tables and chairs are grouped together where small guests choose from a variety of activities including making candy sushi, cookie candy pizzas with colorful slimes, friendship bracelets, or personalize their own custom tote bags and bucket hats.
“Our birthday parties are off the chain right now; we’re booked into October,” says Mason, whose husband Ron works alongside Sorkin’s husband, Chris, in the candy fantasyland. “A lot of people don’t want to miss our haunted house cookie house classes, and just imagine Christmas here and Easter. We want to provide outrageous moments of joy and leave a footprint that gives people a smile.”
It’s also part immersive art gallery that started 16 years ago in Sorkin’s Los Alamitos garage and later went on to become a successful traveling pop-up museum known as Candytopia. Her first show on TLC, Candy Queen featured her creative candy creations, while her latest show Candified– is now streaming on Hulu and The Food Network. You can also watch Sorkin on Netflix’s Sugar Rush, Sugar High, Unique Sweets, Cupcake Wars, Chopped Junior and Rewrapped.
Portraits of famous figures including Taylor Swift, Frida Kahlo, Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, and Harry Styles made up of thousands of pieces of candy line the walls.
“We’ve taught a team of new local artists the technique, who reached out to us to work with us,” says Sorkin. “Every portrait is made by hand with hundreds and thousands of candy pieces. It takes a lot of patience and many give up. The rest say it’s satisfying to do it. It’s hyper arts and crafts on a meticulous level. Taylor started out a little different. At first, she had teeth that looked like chicklets and everybody said wait, Taylor Swift doesn’t have buck teeth! So we closed her mouth.
“It’s a paint-by-numbers system,” she says. “You have to make Frida’s face out of different colored jelly beans. You have to play around a lot and Chris can speak to that. He’s been doing it forever. Sometimes you have to manipulate the candy, like cutting off a gummy bear’s head or twisting a sour belt to make unicorn hair. Some people come in to have a piece like a Kobe Bryant commissioned. It’s a labor of love.”
There is a selection of squish mallows, clucking rubber chickens (popular with the bar crowd that usually filters in around closing time,) a 25-cent wall for smaller budgets, and a small corner that pays homage to the traditional seaside salt water taffy, all in a space where there’s no sign that says “Don’t Touch.”
“We want people walking down Second Street to look at our windows the way they used to look at Macy’s and Gimbels back in the day of over-the-top displays,” says Mason. “We have a great team of candy artists that can pull these things together. We’re only two and a half weeks old, and the reception has been phenomenal.”
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