We've lived here for over 20 years, but there are always surprises and out of the way places that make spending your money more than just grabbing what you need, chucking change and getting the hell out.
Warning: I'm an obsessive label reader/nerd. I have photo albums filled with my favorite can labels. Hilarious, dignified, savvy, old school...I love traditional and time-tested labels. The fonts, colors, product messaging and Made in the U.S.A stuff catches my eye. I like old school marketing, damn you Warhol.
I'll dig and pry to spend my money on that mass-produced traditional, sentimental crap over the contemporary Made in Mexico or China candy with contemporary splash, the stuff you find at any Walgreens in America.
Don't judge me, I buy the same crap you do...I just like seeking out that last wave of American industrial influence.
I found a new place to get my old school/sentimental game on. But I wouldn't have found this place without a little help from my friends.
In this case, I was with a couple neighbors at Earthbound Brewing explaining where my kids used to go to grade school and I said it was near Kingshighway and Oleatha. They said, they didn't really know that school, but it sounded near the place they buy old school candy in bulk.
Bing!!! I was locked in on that last comment.
Actually locked in is not fair. I blocked out the rest of the things they said after "old school candy" and immediately started dreaming about how I haven't already discovered this place and how quickly I can get there. Gotta get me some Necco Wafers and Chuckles.
I made a mental note and knew it was Oleatha I would go. The place they were talking about is in the Tower Grove South Neighborhood. It's called General Candy Company and they deserve your money because they are local, soulful and legit employers of good STL people, not a faceless National chain.
Let me tell you, when we pulled up to this place, I was giddy. My wife knows this look and her eyes rolled. She thought it was all distribution and not open to the public: "don't embarrass me, this doesn't look like a place the general public is welcome", she said.
"I'm going in", said I.
You walk right into the mid-century office, with workers taking calls, filling orders, doing paper work...typical office stuff. I was greeted with "Merry Christmas" and "how can we help you?"
I said: "A friend told me you can buy candy here." (trying to sound all Lou Reed)
"Yes sir, right through that door" (the door said "warehouse"), I knew I was in the right place and headed toward the door not even thinking about getting my wife who was cynically sitting in the car waiting for me to return within minutes.
I guess enough time passed and she knew I was onto something...she followed and we met up in the warehouse with our eyes aglow.
I knew when I opened the door I was gonna get some Chuckles. In fact, we walked away with a case. Made in the U.S.A. with the old school font and packaging.
The usual stuff was there, the Skittles, the Snickers...you know the score.
But there were curiosities and deep cuts worth exploring and at a price that was more than reasonable and better than Walgreens.
Now, speaking as a child of the 70's, there was a North Carolina revival swing band on a trusted record label called Mammoth Records in the 90's: the Squirrel Nut Zippers. There's candy for that too:
We Christmas shopped here. We'll be back for Halloween.
Never stop searching for outta the way places. Soulful places. Real businesses that deserve your money over a boring Walgreens.
Check it out.
I owe my friends for the latest experience. Never would have found this option without you.