In an age where first-graders carry cell phones to school and iPads are on the brink of being government issued, the story of Candy Rox—a candy and accessories shop in Rye, New York—is a refreshing one.
With handmade fixtures that feature everyday objects such as pipes and plywood, to brightly colored plastic milk crates and bungee cords, the space is more like a social experiment in how children and parents can still relate to low-tech elements and props —and the findings have been nothing but a success. Designed by New York-based D-Ash Design, the store was built off the branding vision of co-owners and friends Valerie Stone and Trish Frohman—and their teenage children.
“They were very clear about what they wanted the store to be,” says David Ashen, principal and owner of D-Ash Design. “They wanted something that would be cross-generational. And one element that ties it across generations is music, and then this idea of skate culture.”
Some of the trends that Stone and Frohman’s
children identified related to skateboarding and surfing’s
common heritage of easy living with a touch of reckless abandonment. And that’s exactly what they wanted Candy Rox to represent.
The store’s logo says it all. A gummy bear with chocolate dripping out of its mouth and an X over its eye captures the shop’s sweet but irreverent spirit. It also paved the way to add in a little street culture to the mix—evident in the store’s graffiti-tagged walls. And while the concepts of concrete, sand and waves obviously connected with the youth crowd, the common denominator between them and an older generation of customers (their parents) was the music and location.
“The key was opening it in downtown USA—areas where kids could go after school and hang out at a safe and cool place where they’d actually want to go. A place where parents could go too and buy gifts, because it’s not just candy but a lot of accessories as well,” says Ashen. With its active downtown and vibrant atmosphere, Rye was the perfect location for the new venture.
But while Stone and Frohman were sure of the aesthetic, they weren’t quite so clear on what their product would be. They knew they wanted to feature candy, but they also wanted to showcase an assortment of offerings, such as apparel; accordingly, the design of the space needed to be flexible. The design team achieved that flexibility through the use of found objects and practical pieces evoking skate and surf culture to display merchandise.
“The merchandise became the props in many situations. Candy is bright and colorful, as are the T-shirts they sell. Their merchandise very easily showed itself off,” explains retail stylist Zenda Snyder of Zenda Snyder LLC. Snyder works on a consulting basis with D-Ash Design and was brought in to help achieve the desired visuals, but also to show the owners how to maintain a diversified merchandising strategy. From buckets to bungee cords, Candy Rox is filled with simple, everyday items and low-tech props that allow owners to rearrange and revamp at the drop of a hat. The ceiling is lined by a horizontally hung chain link fence, with theatrical lighting clamped on (making it look like a stage set) and buckets of candy hung from bungee cords (used by surfers to strap their boards down to their cars).
The front of the store is also clearly differentiated from the back, with the front’s old five and dime vibe effectively showcasing the candy and chocolates; the back is more of a lounge, featuring hip apparel and accessories.
Colorful plastic crates were another easy, inexpensive,
versatile piece that worked both in the window displays and as risers throughout the store. Similarly, the hanging rolling rack was made with pipes and plywood. “We stayed with a color plan and used three or four elements over and over again in different ways, and that’s what made it work,” Snyder says. She was also responsible for adhering vintage records and classic rock posters, as well as album covers, to the walls, which many customers have expressed interest in purchasing. Long Lake, Minn.-based Presentations Plus, whom Snyder worked with to create many of the fixtures, wanted to create a “weathered look” throughout the space. The company went as far as beating the wood used in the front of the store with chains to achieve the desired finish.
The back half of the store also utilizes reclaimed woods, and is designed as a half pipe, with the plywood floor wrapping up one side of the wall. It serves as more of a hangout space with skateboards hung on the walls, as well as old guitars, an amp and video games, all of which customers can play.
“It’s become much more than a candy store,” says Ashen, and indeed, Candy Rox is a successful study in “going beyond” retail. The store’s owners have created a space that has a modern edge, while still reminding visitors of a time and a place where the latest app wasn’t the center of every kid’s universe—a welcome respite for parents and teens alike.
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84 Purchase Street
Rye, NY 10580
43-40 34th Street
Long Island City, NY 11101
Jim Su, designer
Zenda Snyder LLC
Presentations Plus of
Miles Wickham “Reskew”
brand strategist/graphic designer