Some people long for a favorite doll, stuffed animal or toy for a taste of their childhood. For Melissa Gurfein it was her childhood candy crush—the now elusive Marathon bar.
These eight inch-long braided chocolate covered caramel bars should not be confused with an energy bar that bears a similar name. Popular in the 1970s, Marathon bars did not promise 20 grams of protein and a steady stream of energy throughout the day. They weren’t meal replacements, they were candy bars—and they were good.
Unfortunately for Gurfien and others who loved them, Marathon bars are reportedly extinct. She scoured the world looking for a fix and while she did find a suitable alternative in the United Kingdom—the Curly Wurly bar, it’s just not the same, she laments.
Gurfein is not an alone in her nostalgia for childhood candy. In fact, retro candy is big business today. Many a store—some big, some small, some brick and mortar, some online, and some both—specialize in curating candy from our collective pasts, with offerings that date back to the 1920s. (Side note, do you remember these vintage candy ads?)
A lot of people are looking for the Marathon bar, says Gina Nisi, who owns Carl’s Candy in Northport, New York. While Nisi doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, she has become quite the candy sleuth since opening the store with her sister in 2016. “I love doing the research because old-school candy transports our customers back in time, ” she says. “It really takes them back to a happy and simple time and place.”
To that end, Carl’s boasts an impressive array of old-school, vintage candy faves—Cherry Mash, Chowards Violet gum, Charleston Chews, Sky and Mars Bars, Satellite wafers, Moon Pies (in many flavors), Necco Wafers, Mary Janes, and Lion Bars along with some of today’s top sellers mixed in—Toxic Waste and Warheads, for example. (Can you name these classic candies?)
Her biggest sellers are Sugar Daddy’s, Charleston Chews, Mary Janes, and Necco Wafers. Other mom-and-pop candy stores such as the Sweet Shop in New York City, Robin’s Candy in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and Bobb Howards General Store in New Hyde Park, New York, are like museums of candy land past.
IT’SUGAR sells a variety of old school candies like gummy bears, including the Giant 5LB Gummy Bear and IT’SUGAR Giant 27LB Gummy Bear, Twizzlers and Big Bag Of Extra Long Twizzlers. Founded by Jeff Rubin in 2006, IT’SUGAR boasts more than 100 retail locations in U.S. hotspots such as New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Denver, San Diego, and Palm Beach.
There are some bigger candy dealers that many confectionery connoisseurs live for including:
- Candy Warehouse: This retailer boasts an entire section devoted to old-fashioned candy and retro sweets including much of the penny candy of yore, such as Chick-O-Stick Nuggets, Bit O Honey, and Brach’s Jelly Nougats.
- Economy Candy: This favorite has a gigantic online presence, and people still line up in front of the throwback storefront in New York City. Basically there is nothing they don’t have (with the possible exception of Marathon bars). Online shoppers can peruse the offerings by color, category, or character and check out a special section called old time favorites—replete with Gold Mine Gum and a wealth of bubble gum or candy cigarettes (remember those?).
- Old Time Candy: Here, you can shop by year and purchase decade gift boxes filled with candies popular in the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and more.
- The Vermont Country Store: This sweet shop has an impressive following as well. It features and will ship such gems as Bonomo Turkish Taffy, BB Bats Taffy Pops, Regal Crown Hard Candy, and more.
- Dylan’s Candy Bar: Founded by Dylan Lauren in 2001, this candy bar now has 20-plus locations has been likened to a modern day version of Willy Wonka’s factory. Dylan’s offer special nostalgia creations from the 1920s on up along with candy-inspired clothing, toys, jewelry, and skin care products.
And don’t worry candy addicts, here are some reasons candy is actually good for you.