Old-fashioned sweetie shops
- Anne McMeekin
- 27 March 2008
Anne McMeekin sinks her teeth into a growing trend for old-fashioned sweetie shops
Ever since Topshop’s flagship store in London’s Oxford Circus introduced a pick’n’mix crammed full of sugary treats designed to top up the sugar levers of over-excited teenagers, all the cool kids have known you’re not anyone unless you have a half-eaten Dolly Bead bracelet and a quarter of cinnamon balls to accessorise your vintage jewellery.
So, do you know your Dib Dabs from your Double Dips? If you answered a toffee-muffled ‘yes’ there’s a good chance you’ve wandered into I Love Candy, Glasgow’s newest vintage emporium with a twist: this one sells sweet treats with a retro feel to dazzle your taste buds.
‘It was important that the shop looked right for it to draw people in,’ says store supervisor Holly Thompson. Co-owner Lisa McAllister had previously worked as a visual merchandiser for Gap which left her well placed to create the store’s quirky aesthetic. This eye for style coupled with Lisa’s interest in vintage clothing has seen the shop take on a 50s retro chic style, complete with candy cane colours and kitsch fittings.
‘We sell all the usual jars of old-fashioned sweets,’ explains Thompson, ‘but it’s hard to know about everything that’s out there so when a customer comes in looking for something specific we try to order it in.’
Such gooey lines of enquiry have led them to enlist the help of a man they refer to as ‘Scotland’s own Willy Wonka’, a secretive, reclusive and anonymous local sugarsmith who supplies them with forgotten and discontinued classics such as chewy chocolate bar Chelsea Whoppers, M&B Bars and Spanish Golds (previously called ‘Sweet Tobacco’).
‘The older people go mad for these products,’ says Thompson. But the shop has people of all ages wandering in, from young kids drawn to new novelty sweets like Candy Spray to grandparents eager to rediscover lost sweets from their childhood.
Out east, Edinburgh’s Choco Latte is a southside institution with a twinkle of marshmallow and mischief in its eye. The owners dream up eye-popping cakey goodness inspired by today’s top sellers: think muffins made with Malteasers or Creme Eggs and chocolate cakes with Mars Bar chunks on top. Local customers of all ages treasure it as a well-kept secret tucked just far enough out of town to not be discovered by the masses.
As the Topshop hordes know well, fashion is a fickle creature, but Thompson is less convinced that they’re simply playing to a passing trend. ‘Everything goes round in cycles,’ she says. ‘But taste is so evocative and sweets are such an interesting part of social history – everyone has something to say about the shop.
They tell you stories about their childhood and I get to hear about a whole side of history I wouldn’t otherwise know about.’
I Love Candy, 261 Byres Road, Glasgow, 0141 337 3399; Choco Latte, 33–39 South Clerk Street, Edinburgh.