Valentine's Day is really just an excuse to go to Economy Candy, in New York City. "We have chocolate roses," said Skye Greenfield Cohen. "We have a Valentine's Day kiss assortment, the classic conversation hearts – they're updated, I think now. They have, like, 'Text Me,' you know, on them! We also have chocolate lips – nice little smooch!"
Walk in the door and the word "overload" immediately comes to mind. There are not many authentic, old-fashioned candy stores like this one left. It's a New York City destination.
Joey Goldman, from San Francisco, told correspondent Martha Teichner, "We're gonna have a birthday party next weekend, and we thought we would come and pick out some candy for the piñata while we're here."
One young customer, Hannah, said, "I need to, like, go here every day!"
"Every day?" asked Teichner. "Do you think you'd get sick of candy if you came here… ?"
"No," she replied.
Behold, floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall candy, more than 2,000 varieties, presided over by three generations of the Cohen family. "We are New York's oldest retail candy shop, in operation since 1937," said Mitchell Cohen. His grandfather, Moishe, started the business: "He would set everything up outside, 5:00, 6:00 in the morning. It didn't matter if it was zero degrees or 100 degrees. My grandfather stayed outside every day" – to gab with customers.
The neighborhood – New York's Lower East Side – was teeming with poor immigrants who allowed themselves to splurge on cheap candy. By the time Mitchell came along, his parents had taken over.
"I was about 4 or 5 years old, my dad would have me on a milk carton, behind the register doing change," he said. "I grew up here working Sundays and weekends and holidays."
Teichner asked, "Did you love it or resent it?"
"Oh, I loved it!"
So much that he quit his job as an investment banker to join the business. So much that he brought his future wife, Skye, here on their first date. "And then, I think it was our second of third date, he took me to work!" she said.
The back of the store is color-coordinated – a party planner's dream! The jelly beans are just the beginning. Somewhere over the rainbow is the international section, home to British, Dutch, Mexican, even Israeli favorites, plus a shelf of Japanese Kitkats, a whole different thing than the American ones. Among the KitKat flavors: Cheesecake, strawberry, white chocolate, ruby chocolate with almonds and cranberries.
All the stuff you thought wasn't made any more? Chances are Economy Candy has it. Penny candy isn't a penny anymore, but it's still a bargain: $4.99 for a pound of nostalgia.
Customer Sara Mertz said, "All the candy that my parents ate, even candy from when I was a kid, I can find here that I can't find other places."
One father, Alejandro, told Teichner he went to high school not far from here: "You walk in here, it's like a place time forgot."
Not quite. Mitchell Cohen figures this little, 1,000-sq.-ft. candy shop sells half a million pounds of candy a year. During COVID, without the usual tourists, it's been able to survive because it does a brisk online business.
And people are just as likely to come here for the latest big thing as they are for the last century's – like the Mega Toxic Waste Slime Licker – sour rolling liquid candy, dispensed like roll-on deodorant.
"Can't keep 'em on the shelves," said Mitchell. Skye added, "At one point we had a two-month waiting list just to get one of these."
At Economy Candy, it's impossible not to feel, and act, like a kid.
For more info:
- Economy Candy, 108 Rivington Street, N.Y.
Story produced by Julia Kracov. Editor Chad Cardin.
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