I remember the first time I stepped into Economy Candy. I had just moved to New York City. I thought I had already been to the best candy shop in the world—I lived down the street from Dylan’s Candy Bar—but Economy Candy was something else. So much better.
I love how the little shop appears preserved in time. The signage above the entrance says, “OLD TIME FAVORITES. SINCE 1937.” A collage of old-school candy wrappers (Abba-Zaba, Chiclets, Turkish Taffy, Mallo Cup) cover the storefront windows.
Inside, the place is a museum of nostalgic sweets. No space is left unfilled; the place is crammed with candy, floor to ceiling. Bins of pick ‘n’ mix at the front are stuffed with an array of penny candy, the kinds my grandmother would keep in her crocheted purse to give to me: Tootsie Rolls, butterscotch buttons, liquid-filled strawberry hard candies, and Starlight Mints. I see treats that bring back childhood memories. The individual Joray fruit roll-ups I would beg my mom to get at the grocery store. Canisters of Charms sour candy balls that my parents would keep in the car (the outsides of the candy would get hot and stick together from being left out in the sun, but I would still pick out the white ones which were my favorite).
It’s almost Halloween, so I pick up my son after school and we get on the M15 bus down to the Lower East Side. “Where are we going?” he asks. I tell him it’s a surprise, and swear it will be awesome. He scoots down Rivington Street in his watermelon helmet, past the bars and Babeland’s colorful awning (“Are we going there? Is that a toy store?” Oh Miles, we are most definitely not going there.) Finally we reach the promised land. The look on his face when we enter is priceless. Whoa, he says.
Instinctively, he grabs a shopping basket and asks if we can get the first thing he sees, a five-pound bag of chocolate Halloween candy shaped like eyeballs, fingers, and other severed body parts. “Hold up,” I say. I am a pro at candy-shopping and I tell him our strategy: “Listen, there are a lot of cool things here. We have to look at everything before we decide what to put in our basket, okay?” He looks unconvinced, but agrees.
And there is so much to see. Candy wax lips, rock candy in every color of the rainbow, halvah, chocolate dipped treats, lollipops of every shape and size, and a wall of fruity licorice and gummy candies (worms, frogs, bears, octopus, soda bottles, and more) all in tightly wrapped plastic baggies with a sticker price by weight. We spend a while looking at the piles of trading cards (Pee-Wee’s Playhouse! Garbage Pail Kids!), and a small section of vintage Pez (Miss Piggy, Bugs Bunny, and Garfield’s sidekick, Odie). Miles and I are confused by the Satellite Wafers (What are they? Are they really edible?). We decide to get them to answer these pressing questions. We buy some Pop Rocks. Miles is curious to try them, and I am curious to see what his face will look like when they hit his tongue. Our basket gets full with a few other treats we plan on sharing with our friends on Halloween.
Miles can’t contain his excitement, bringing home a backpack full of sweets. I rarely let him eat candy—he only really gets the green light on Halloween, Christmas, and anytime his grandparents are around. He tries some Candy Buttons (“Yum!”) but is disappointed that the different colors all taste the same. His face lights up when I let him try a blue licorice wheel, and a jelly fruit slice (All I can think of, watching him chew it, is how much is sticking to his teeth). The highlight is Pop Rocks. He grabs a big handful and shoves them into his mouth and starts crunching furiously. Everything starts popping and crackling. His face looks both thrilled and terrified. He sticks out his sticky blue hand. “More!”