Halloween: Montclair’s got candy
KATE ALBRIGHT/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL
By GWEN OREL
In the lead-up to Halloween, candy is on the mind.
To stock up for the big day, of assorted candy for trick-or-treaters can be found at drugstores and supermarkets.
Montclair is lucky to have not one, but two places to buy novelty and comfort candy year-round.
Grove Pharmacy, at 123 Grove St., has been in business since 1925 and sells candy by the pound, or by the coin. It also sells freshly-baked David’s Cookies.
Rocket Fizz, at 568 Bloomfield Ave., is a franchise, and has been in town since this past July. It sells contemporary and vintage candy, as well as literally hundreds of different kinds of specialty sodas.
Between the two, sweet-tooths for baby teeth and sweet-tooths for those long in the tooth will find plenty to chow down on.
Both stores will give out candy to trick-or-treaters, too.
GOODIES ON GROVE STREET
Grove Pharmacy has a long history in Montclair. Stuffed to the gills with shelves of toys and gifts, as well as medical supplies, the pharmacy still delivers.
And at the back of the shop, you can buy candy by the half-pound, or 50 cents worth of this or that. Gummy bears, smooth and melty mints, malt balls are all there. The pharmacy
makes up gift baskets and party favors.
The store also sells locally-sourced goodies, such as Jersey Girl chocolate bars.
Manager Peter Stypulkoski has worked at Grove Pharmacy for 40 years. Over the years, Stypulkoski said, there has been discussion about keeping the candy store going, but people do come in for it.
Candy bestsellers vary. “We have one customer who’s trying to quit smoking, and he goes through a couple of pounds of mint starlight kisses every two weeks,” he said.
June D’Onofrio is in charge of the candy and cookies. She was making cookies when she spoke to Montclair Local. Like Stypulkoski, her tenure at Grove Pharmacy is long; in her case, almost 27 years. Cookie samples were on the counter.
D’Onofrio said they will take customer orders, too. She’s noticed different candies are popular with different age groups.
“The little kids like the little tchotchke stuff over here, the bottle pops, the pop rocks,” she said, pointing to the displays at the front of the counter. Halloween novelties such as wax fang lips were on display. High school kids like the gummies and the sours, she said. And some like chocolates.
Her own favorite candy is a dark chocolate caramel with sea salt.
She gave this reporter and Montclair Local one each to taste (it was yummy). This was not something special for the reporter: Grove Pharmacy, like an ice cream store, gives out tastes to help customers make up their minds.
Up to a point, D’Onofrio said with a laugh. “One or two things.”
FAVORITES AT ROCKET FIZZ
“You have my favorite soda from my childhood growing up in Detroit!” said Matt Russman, holding up a bottle of Faygo cola at Rocket Fizz.
Kyle McTeer came in to ask for Boston Baked Beans. Manager Elizabeth Sylva had to look in her store spreadsheet to find them. The decor of the store is colorful, a feast for the eyes, and has no order to speak of, except visual goodness.
It’s not 1970s candies here, 1990s candies there. Tin signs and replicas of concert posters hang on the walls. Lunch boxes and toys (a lightsaber that lights up; Harry Potter playing cards; joke plastic vomit) are mixed in with the candy.
Moon pies are next to gummy sushi.
Sylva and the Montclair Local team all looked in vain for the Boston Baked Beans the spreadsheet said were there. Just as McTeer was about to give up and buy Whoppers instead, we found them, and made his day.
Customers do come in to ask for candies. Sugar babies are popular, but she hasn’t been able to track down sugar mommas.
Part of Sylva’s job is to try everything, so she can give customers feedback.
One thing that sets Rocket Fizz apart is its huge selection of sodas. Colorful soda bottles
line the lower shelves. Varieties of ginger ale include not only Reed’s and Boylans, which can be found at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, but also The King’s Arms, Bruce Cost and Baron’s Ginseng (and many more). Unusual flavored-drinks include bacon soda, butter soda, cucumber soda. “Pumpkin is a really good one,” Sylva said.
And novelty sodas, such as The Monkees soda. Marilyn Monroe soda. Hello Kitty soda. And vintage sodas, like Volt and Faygo.
The store intends to have soda tastings (they’ve had a few already), and eventually offer birthday parties upstairs.
As at the Grove Pharmacy, Pop Rocks are a popular item. At Rocket Fizz, “mega buttons” (the candy buttons attached to paper) are popular, too, and jawbreakers. Pizza gummies “fly of the shelf with little kids,” Sylva said. And “a lot of kids like Zotz, because of their
parents,” she said.
At the front of the store are barrels of mix-and-match wrapped candies, including caramel creams, smarties, Mary Janes, which customers can use to fill up a bag.
Sylva said she can tell what age people are in part by what candies they ask for. People who ask for spacers are in their 60s and up. People who love nerds are usually 30s or 40s. Charleston Chews, 40s and 50s.
And people do come in and tell her stories about the posters; some of her customers have
been to the concerts.
People often come in and say “I didn’t know they still made this,” Sylva said.
But kids also come in after school and just buy what looks good to them. Rocket Fizz sells chocolate-covered crickets, which could be a popular item for Halloween. And chocolate-covered ants.
Grown-ups might find that horrifying. That’s the point.
In this article:
- Grove Pharmacy
123 Grove St.
- Rocket Fizz
568 Bloomfield Ave.