Fans of Mary Jean Dunsdon's old-fashioned Commercial Drive Licorice Parlour will be excited to learn that the shop's second location opened earlier this week at the Kids Market at Granville Island.
Dunsdon, who you'll likely know better by Watermelon, the nickname she earned while famously selling marijuana-infused cookies at Wreck Beach in the '90s, says the opportunity to open a second shop practically fell into her lap.
The shop's previous tenant, Canadian I-Candy Boutique, had vacated in early January, and with just a short time remaining before it needed to be rented to a new tenant, Dunsdon was asked if she'd be interested in opening a second Licorice Parlour at the market. She was given just five days to make a decision.
"Although 85 percent of my customers at the Commercial store are adults, she [the rental manager] was adamant that it would work here, and then I thought, with these high quality candies, I can get kids over to my side too," she told the Straight during a visit to her shop on Tuesday. She opened the first shop in 2012.
Offering an assortment of candies and licorice varieties imported from Europe, freshly made cotton candy, homemade chocolates, a variety of curated grab bags, and hula hoops, Dunsdon says she feels like the exciting but unexpected turn of events is allowing her to tap into a market that's been dominated by bulk-style dispensing machines that she says promote overconsumption.
"It's like reinventing the candy store, and going back to the era of soda fountain, apothecary-style shops," she said.
"This is interactive, and people have to talk to me to find out about the candy—it's not just this corporate candy dispensed out of a machine, which really feels like an illusion of choice to me: you can have the high-fructose corn syrup with the blue dye shaped like a whale, or the high-fructose corn syrup with the red and yellow dye shaped like a worm. It's all just the same."
Unlike the North American candies she speaks of, her imported treats are free of high-fructose corn syrup, artificial food dyes and flavourings, as laws in the E.U. on such ingredients are far more stringent than here in Canada.
(Among other things, the European Food Safety Authority says food dye consumption may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.)
Many of Dunsdon's offerings are also gluten-free, dairy-free, and gelatin-free. Dyes are replaced with natural ingredients like—get this—actual fruits and vegetables, cumin, turmeric, paprika, and stinging nettle.
She also touts the health benefits of natural licorice, which has been shown in some cases to reduce inflammation in the body, and act as a mood enhancer.
"We do have some classic candies as well, but for the most part, it's all imported, which tends to be of better quality," she said. "It's like I'm the first health nut to open a candy store."
Unlike the shop on the Drive, which has a kitchen, the new one will focus strictly on retail sales, but she hopes to bring homemade treats like her gluten-, dairy-, and sugar-free quinoa waffles over in the near future.
She also plans to offer birthday party packages geared to children that will incorporate hula hooping lessons and candy grab bags. With a quiet pedestrian lane just outside the shop's door, she says she's looking forward to making use of the space with her fellow "hoop girls".
"On the Drive, we're kind of limited for that unless it's Car-Free day or Italian Days, but here, we've got lots of space for hoop parties," she says.
Check out the new Licorice Parlour on Granville Island in the images below.