Today, when you arrive at Coney Island and emerge from the train station, instead of the grand old Henderson Building, the first thing you see is the global chain candy store IT'SUGAR, topped with a billboard from which mega-developer Thor Equities (misspelled "Equites") welcomes you, as if Coney Island belonged to them. Which, actually, it does.
Already you want to die.
When IT'SUGAR (that's how they choose to misspell it) opened this spring, The Brooklyn Paper reported that their CEO declared that customers would choose his shop over nearby old-timer Williams Candy because of IT'SUGAR's "sleek, trendy vibe and jumbo, novelty-size boxes" of big-brand candies like Nerds and Snickers.
So how do the two compare?
Local, family-run Williams Candy has been here for some 75 years. When you walk into their comfortable old shop, you are welcomed by the most wonderful aroma, a powerful mix of chocolate, roasted nuts, popcorn, and candy apples--which they make onsite by hand. The place is warm and inviting.
IT'SUGAR was founded in Florida in 2006, now with 68 locations. When you walk in to their Coney store, you don't smell anything. Maybe because it's mostly sealed inside plastic. Or maybe because your other senses are being brutally assaulted by pounding pop music and a confusing array of colors, brands, and images, including several posters of sexy girls sucking lollipops and wearing Catholic-school miniskirts.
With competitive swagger, IT'SUGAR's CEO told Brooklyn Paper, “Our candy stores are not your typical ‘old fashioned and stale’ stores but more of a hip and cool place where customers can find so many exclusive, unique and fun products."
What are these more unusual products you won't find at Williams Candy? Well, there's the gummy Party Python, a giant snake shown cradled and suckled by three hot girls in hooker heels.
If that's too big to swallow, try the smaller, but no less potent, World's Largest Gummy Worm, an item that bears an uncanny resemblance to something you might find in a sex shop under the category "Double Input."
IT'SUGAR also has their own line of novelty mints, each in a creative tin. On the one for their "You Know You Want It" mints--not to be confused with their BITCH mints and FML (Fuck My Life) mints--they provide a listing of IT'SUGAR's "sweet philosophy" of life. The tin reads, "We believe in: conspicuous consumption, addiction to sugar, overindulgence, asking for forgiveness instead of permission, bending rules, being a little brighter than the rest," and more along those lines.
But IT'SUGAR is not just about candy. You can also find notepads for making HEY ASSHOLE notes, WTF notes, SHIT lists, and BITCH CITATIONS. You can buy clothing, too, like the girl's "flirty" tank top that says "Wanna Lick."
I found it all rather overwhelming, and had to run away fast, fleeing to the warm, quiet bosom of Williams Candy, where a person can think and breathe.
None of the treats at Williams Candy tell you to be a greedy, slutty, sociopathic consumer. There are no pictures of teenage girls fellating the candies. There's no loud, repetitive pop music to jackhammer your brain.
At Williams, the treats are peaceful and modest. The candy apples, freshly dipped and be-sprinkled, sit patiently on their trays and wait to be chosen. They don't scream at you. They don't try to be "unique." And they certainly don't suggest that you insert them into anyone's vagina. They just exist--and they exist beautifully, with an old-fashioned sense of style.
There's nothing "stale" about that.
See more on Williams Candy
Now watch this little movie about Williams Candy--and, this week only, go see Zipper at IFC, a fantastic film that tells the inside story of how Coney Island is being turned into a mean and soulless suburban mall.
Peter Agrapides, Owner of Coney Island's Williams Candy (v1) from The Brooklyn Ink on Vimeo.