I admit that my personal opinions are not nearly as valuable as $78.4 million in annual revenue (not yet, at least), but I have never been a fan of IT’SUGAR. As someone who cares deeply about candy and thinks about it hard and often, I am drawn to candy stores of all candy stripes. But IT’SUGAR, a monument to corporatized brand optimization that happens to sell a bit of candy on the side, is not spiritually a sweets shop at all. In the words of its founder, Jeff Rubin, “Everyone else builds candy stores on taste. I’m building on attitude.”
I’ve waxed rhapsodic about product lines from Mars and Mondelez International, so the splashy, mass-market, focus-group-tested nature of IT’SUGAR is not exactly what I find distasteful. Instead, it’s the idea that leading with flavors and making a quality product are values proudly held in distant second place to the bland, overarching idea of “attitude”—a word that often means little more than merchandise with a few poop jokes thrown in. The interior of every IT’SUGAR reflects this; you’re twice as likely to encounter plush gummi bears and Donald Trump toilet paper (?) than any candy more interesting than what you’d find at a gas station. Again, this is a model that works, and works astoundingly well: BBX Capital Corp., an equally whimsical sounding entity, purchased a majority stake in IT’SUGAR in 2017 for $57 million. My opinions mean nothing!
And never has that been more true than now, because as Real Estate Weekly reports, IT’SUGAR has just opened “the world’s first candy department store” in the new American Dream mega-mall in New Jersey. The 22,000-square-foot store has three stories and plenty of Instagrammable installations, such as a lollipop garden and a Statue of Liberty sculpture covered in 1.5 million Jelly Belly beans. There are plans to open an Oreo Cafe on the top floor next year, which in the grand tradition of IT’SUGAR is perplexingly named “TWISTiD.”
Am I being far too melodramatic in my evaluation of the IT’SUGAR department store? Yes. And if I ever find myself at the second largest mall in the United States, then sure, I’ll stop in for a stroll through its 5,000 square feet of candy bins, which I’m hoping offer up something more interesting than Reindeer Poop. But I think IT’SUGAR and I can both agree that what it has built here is not really a candy shop. While spokespeople would surely boast that it’s much more than that, I’ll always consider it something less.