Monday, June 7, 2010

Powell's Sweet Shoppe

Powell's Sweet Shoppe

Stepping from the bright, tidy streets of downtown Bend into Powell's Sweet Shoppe is like entering a murky Jungian cave of repressed desires. As your eyes adjust, memories begin to materialize from the gloom--Zots and Skittles and Pop Rocks and Lik-m-Stix and gummies in a dozen revolting shapes. Powell's is both archive and warehouse, stuffed to the rafters with half-remembered names and half-forgotten flavors.

The original Powell's opened in 2003 in Windsor, CA, in the town's faux Victorian downtown. Powell's is modeled on what the company describes as "an old-time, old-fashioned, old-world candy store taken from America's imagination." It proved to be a compelling form of treat-based time travel; the first franchise opened in 2006, and there are currently 17 branches in California and Oregon. The Bend store opened in 2008.

One of the things that I find endlessly fascinating about candy and other sweets is their disarming ability to connect certified grown-ups to a time when both treats and threats were more intense. Powell's seems to share this view, at least in part: "On the surface we sell ice cream and sweets, but you don't have to stand in the Shoppe too long before you realize that what we really offer are memories...And that is precisely our goal. We want to walk our customers down memory lane and remind them of good things and good times."

Of course, childhood memories are rarely as unambiguously sunny as marketers might like to believe. For me every step into Powell's triggered new and complicated memories: there were the mints my late grandfather favored, the drops I remember from a kind neighbor's candy dish, the novelty gum I saved my allowance to buy but always found disappointing, the candy the rich families used to give out on Halloween. As sweets-centric as I am, Powell's was more like a fever dream than a saunter down memory lane.

Powell's Sweet Shoppe
818 NW Wall Street
Bend, OR

No comments: