Friday, March 28, 2008

Sweet Banana

Following up on yesterday's depressing news, I revisited the dying block of 9th Ave and popped into the Sweet Banana Candy Store around lunchtime, when middle-school kids pour out of the O. Henry building on 17th, making a beeline for Sweet Banana.

I was soon surrounded by clumsy, goofy little boys, many of them slurping Cup-O-Noodles or holding steaming styrofoam trays of Chinese food they got for lunch next door at New China (also packed with kids). Most of these boys were Asian and many of them wore glasses and big, oversized sneakers. They jostled around the plexiglass candy trays, grabbing for Chick-O-Sticks, Sugar Daddies, Air Heads, Hot NY Press put it: "a mix of both common and weird candies."

Sweet Banana sells nostalgic candy, the old-fashioned stuff, like Mary Janes, Goetze's caramels, and odd individually wrapped Circus Peanuts. I was the only one in the place who picked up a pack of Round Up candy cigarettes. I love the packaging. Turns out they're made by a company in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, called World Candies (aka Confections), one of the last producers of candy cigarettes in the U.S.

There's been a movement to ban candy cigarettes because, proponents claim, they encourage kids to smoke. I don't know about that. I didn't see any kids buying these things--and eating a candy cigarette is a lot like eating a stick of chalk dipped in sugar. I do know that candy cigarettes should be added to the list of vanishings, because how long can they stick around, really?

Which is the same way I feel about Sweet Banana, even though, when I asked the cashier if they were closing soon, she told me they were staying. But with the new owner planning a retail tenant overhaul, how long can they stick around, really?


Anonymous said...

Nice piece. I used to love the candy cigs when I was a kid (and I don't smoke as an adult).

Anonymous said...

I don't get that far west very often, but I am going to make a point of getting to that candy store. Reminds me of when my friends and I would get 25 cents' worth of penny candy, then hold a picnic on my parents' handkerchief-sized lawn.