Need something to do this weekend? Here are five Vancouver sources for a high-quality sugar fix.
The Candy Aisle, 2083 West 4th Avenue
Imagine West 4th Avenue as a sort of temporal map of cultural trends. An early-warning system, if you like, gently nudging us into the future as we observe the disappearance of book and magazine stores, the expanding/contracting saga of Zulu Records, or the subtle displacement of day spas by flotation rooms. And then, in marked defiance of all that, we have the Candy Aisle. As immovable as the Rock of Gibraltar and stickier than a root beer float-flavoured wodge of salt-water taffy—just one of the indelicacies, incidentally, that’s available at this Kitsilano mainstay—the Candy Aisle will almost certainly weather all evolving retail habits from here until the end of time (an event symbolized in the great canon of candy-based literature by the fabled Everlasting Gobstopper). Regrettably, the Everlasting Gobstopper is not available at the Candy Aisle (it wouldn’t be fabled, otherwise), but everything else is, more or less. The brilliant part is the way that its inventory of penny sweets (bonbons, malt balls, gummies of all description) and chocolate bars of legend (Cadbury’s towering Flake, the proletarian gumption and dignity of the Yorkie) is presented in a way that at least looks artisanal. Meanwhile, less common exotica (edible G-strings, scorpion lollipops) serve to remind us that the dark side of confectionary still offers an allure beyond the growing cultural trend of metabolic disorders and receding gums.
Commercial Drive Licorice Parlour, 1002 Commercial Drive
Before opening the Commercial Drive Licorice Parlour, shop owner Watermelon was famous around town—and Wreck Beach—for her deliciously mind-altering cookies and other confections. The closest thing you’ll find to synapse-frying at her charmingly retro East Side confectionary is something called “snorting chocolate”. (Think Stevie Nicks’s favourite nose candy, except as Belgian cocoa powder rather than Colombian snow.) For those prefer to ingest their candy in a more traditional fashion, the Commercial Drive Licorice Parlour also has—you guessed it—an awesome array of licorice. Choose from 60 different options, ranging from salty-enough-for-a-cow-stable to a banana-flavoured variety from Finland and gluten-free options. Get yourself a big-enough straw, and you might even be able to snort them.
Candy Kitchen, 1689 Johnston Street, Granville Island
Got a kid you need to shut up while hitting the Lobster Man, JJ Bean, and Duso’s on Granville Island? Nothing will stop their whining like promising them a trip to the Candy Kitchen. The major attraction is a massive Pez display cabinet, filled with kitsch-cool dispensers Pee-wee Herman would give up his candy-apple-red beach-cruiser bike for. (Who knew Pez catered to Trekkies?) While Candy Kitchen isn’t exactly massive, there's an endless array of sugary goodness to choose from, including Lego-style candy bricks, tooth-cracking jawbreakers, and gummy everything (bears, worms, and garden-variety insects). You can even find candy in the shape of various fruits and vegetables, the best thing about which is that no one’s going to complain about having to line up for a candy carrot. As opposed to, you know, queuing up behind nine tourists from Seattle at Granville Island Produce with a screaming, snot-nosed kid.
Candy in the Cove, 449 Trunk Road, Bowen Island
This one is a bit farther afield than the other shops on the list, but it’s the weekend, after all, so the short hop from Horseshoe Bay to Snug Cove is well worth your 20 minutes. Candy in the Cove bills itself as the smallest candy store in the world, which is not a claim that anyone appears to be contesting. What isn’t so small is the selection; this place is like the Tardis of sweet shops. The groaning shelves are stocked—presumably by Oompa-Loompas—floor-to-ceiling with everything from Airheads and Bottle Caps to Freddo bars, Walnut Whips, and sherbet-filled flying saucers. Lots of bulk and pick ’n’ mix options, too, including enough salt-water taffy to line the Atlantic City boardwalk. Candy in the Cove can also supply your party with everything from goodie bags and piñatas to a fancy-pants “designer candy bar”. For some extra fun, see if you can get back to the mainland without pulling an Augustus Gloop and devouring all of your purchases right there on the ferry.
House of McLaren, 125–131 Water Street
Will the U.K. ever field another World Cup–winning team? No. Can it build a motor vehicle that doesn’t leak oil all over the garage? Absolutely not. Can it create a massive variety of strange and hauntingly good packaged candy? You’re damn right it can. There’s no way to eat an imported Cadbury Flake bar and not want to buy a whole box. Next thing you know, you’re on to liquorice-powered Sherbet Fountains, and then you’re hitting the hard stuff: seaside-town rock candy, the sugar equivalent of a nuclear-reactor rod. Find this out for yourself at House of McLaren in Gastown, one of Vancouver’s premier importers of all things Scottish. Sure, you can tell yourself that you’ve stopped in for one of the store’s fine kilts or clan maps, but you know you’re really there for its excellent selection of sweeties from a faraway island that takes sweeties very, very seriously.
Running every Thursday, Vancouver Weekend spotlights five Straight-approved places around the city worth discovering.