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LOS ANGELES — The apple — or, in this case, the candy apple — doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Dylan Lauren officially opened her first Dylan’s Candy Bar store in California at the Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles this month, but she has a vision to take her Willy Wonka-inspired company to new heights, like those perhaps reached by flying glass elevators. Lauren predicted Dylan’s Candy Bar could swell to 30 stores worldwide, although that number is more than five years away, and is extending beyond its own stores with wholesale partnerships, licensing deals and brand collaborations.
“My dream is to grow a brand like my dad did where he took a tie and expanded into a lifestyle brand,” said Lauren. “I hope that I can take the candy, keep doing what I am doing where we are growing the apparel brand and growing the home furnishing stuff. We are starting actually to talk about it — we have pillows now — to become a lifestyle brand. People will know it is Dylan’s Candy Bar and want a piece of it.”
The first step in building the Dylan’s Candy Bar lifestyle brand is putting stores in major cities. After Los Angeles, where its 3,000-square-foot store looks out onto the facade of a Topshop coming to the neighboring shopping center The Grove in February, Dylan’s Candy Bar will open its fifth store in Miami, at 801 Lincoln Road, by early December. Other American cities on the company’s radar are Las Vegas, San Francisco and Chicago. A pop-up shop is in the works for the holiday season.
“Ideally, I would love to open up a 30,000-square-foot shop in Japan or London,” said Lauren, before adding, “I don’t want to be everywhere. I think that some of these candy stores that are everywhere are not special.”
Lauren has very specific ideas about the right locations for Dylan’s Candy Bar stores. Not a mall shopper since she grew up in New York, she tends to prefer streets where the pedestrian traffic is heavy. Big stores are better. At 15,000 square feet, Dylan’s Candy Bar describes its store in New York as the largest candy store in the world, and Lauren wants to bring the feel of that store to other locations in two-level spaces typically ranging from 5,000 to 15,000 square feet.
That’s not to say Dylan’s Candy Bar isn’t flexible. It has several different possible formats. Stores can include a cafe, a bar, both or neither. A mini concept in East Hampton, N.Y., is 1,000 square feet. The Los Angeles store, which is roomier but still small by Dylan’s Candy Bar standards, is teaching Lauren that her ever-expanding candy universe can be squeezed into tighter quarters. “This L.A. store is still a work in progress. We have brought in some of the highlights from New York, and we will continue to do so,” she said.
A Dylan’s Candy Bar store has around 7,000 items in it at any given time. There is always classic candy, from chocolate bars to Swedish fish, a perennial bestseller, but there are constant infusions of treats tied to holidays, pop culture or important events. The L.A. store, for example, has a prominent display of chocolates emblazoned with elephants and donkeys to mark the political conventions. Her favorites? “Red gum balls, red string licorice. Anything red and gummy I love, but the cherry flavor, not the cinnamon or the strawberry,” she related.
Dylan’s Candy Bar’s wholesale operations and brand partnerships raise its brand awareness and garner sales. Brand partnerships have resulted in blankets with Splendid, strollers with Maclaren and sweets with Harajuku Lovers. Although wholesale is a small percentage of the company’s business, Lauren said it is ballooning. Among the retailers that Dylan’s Candy Bar has merchandise in are Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus, where the brand is introducing a shop-in-shop in the department store’s Hawaii outpost. “I don’t love being on shelves. I am really into creating an environment and retail entertainment,” said Lauren.
Hotels are becoming more prominent vehicles to spread Dylan’s Candy Bar, and airports and licensing deals are next. A Dylan’s Candy Bar cart has gone into the Four Seasons in New York, and shop-in-shops are in the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme, Mich., and the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. Lauren is vetting airport retail options and various licensing opportunities. Dylan’s Candy Bar has already launched stationery under a licensing agreement with Lifeguard Press.
As Dylan’s Candy Bar spreads, Lauren, who acts as chief executive officer and wouldn’t discuss the company’s finances, said she’s begun to think about creating a board. “It’s become a real business that has so much potential and lots of complexities,” she said, continuing, “The biggest challenge is handling it all, balancing everything. It’s a lot of work. I mean, I was literally in here every week doing something. I was on the ladder tweaking the lollipop trees, making sure they faced the right way or changing the lighting. I’m just very hands on with everything you see.”