A-listers seeking to satisfy a sweet tooth turn to Sugar Factory, the Las Vegas-based confectionery retailer whose premium-priced Couture Pops are as fashion-forward as they are flavorful.
“Kim loves sugar,” an in-store advertisement featuring the popular Kardashian sister asserts. So do Britney, Tori, Lindsay, Denise and Eva. Even Sting has been spotted with a Couture Pop in hand.
Proof of these celebrity endorsements are scattered throughout the store, in blingy framed wall hangings and on plasma TVs that run photos on a loop showcasing the stars enjoying a little sugar. But Sugar Factory’s celebrity following is just one reason the retailer, which held its grand opening last June, is making headlines.
Another is co-owner Steve Davidovici, a well-known nightclub owner whose recently opened properties include Griffin in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, located a far cry from the Vegas Strip, where Sugar Factory resides inside the Mirage Resort & Casino. Davidovici’s other partners in the confectionery venture are his wife, Charissa; entrepreneur Corey Jenkins; real estate agent Rollie Sturm; and talent manager Perry Rogers. It’s their combined experiences and connections that helped launch Sugar Factory into a recognizable brand almost from the start.
In just seven short months, Sugar Factory has been featured on reality TV shows such as “The Girls Next Door” and “The Hills.” And following Britney Spears’ shopping trip last fall, more than 600,000 blogs documented her in-store appearance, Davidovici says.
Currently, Sugar Factory does not advertise anywhere, instead relying on word of mouth and celebrity endorsements. It’s received press from magazines such as Us Weekly, InStyle and People; newspapers such as the Las Vegas Sun and New York Post; and even Fox News and MSNBC.
At some point, the business “just started exploding,” Davidovici says. “We’re doing 1,000 transactions a day.”
Celebrities aren’t the only Sugar Factory shoppers.
“The customer is everybody,” Davidovici says. “Families can bring in their kids and not break the bank.”
Indeed, there’s something for every age and income at Sugar Factory, which its owner describes as “Willy Wonka meets MTV.”
Overhead, candy-themed music plays songs such as “Sweet Dreams,” by the Eurythmics; “Honey,” by Mariah Carey; and “Lollipop,” by the Chordettes. Brightly colored candies, packaging and decor contrast sharply and neatly with the white walls and tile floors. The glasstop front desk is adorned with gumballs. It also features rows of Sugar Factory’s rubber duck mascot, which is featured prominently throughout the store and comes in different outfits and characters (such as Frankenstein and Santa Claus), depending on the season. The retailer sells 60 little ducks and 15 big ones a week, Davidovici notes.
White shelves line all three walls of the compact store, some containing round bins filled with bulk candy, which can be collected in a variety of containers, from plastic houses to Chinese takeout boxes, all bearing the Sugar Factory logo. Top sellers are Australian licorice, gumballs, gummy bears and sours. Other fixtures include a tall display of oversize swirl lollipops (think Shirley Temple).
A dedicated adult-only area features Chocoholics brand chocolate body frostings with paint brushes and stencil kits as well as candy underwear, chocolate shower bars and a strip chocolate board game. (It is Vegas, after all.)
Meanwhile, a nostalgia area of the store features pails full of Charleston Chews, Pop Rocks, Oh Henry!, Laffy Taffy, Clark bars, Razzles and saltwater taffy. Another area displays theater boxes of Milk Duds, Cookies Dough Bites, Whoppers, Sno-Caps and Red Vines. When it comes to retro, candy necklaces as well as candy cigarettes are big sellers, Davidovici points out.
“People are pretty impressed with the amount of old-school candy we carry,” he says.The overall selection is impressive, too. At just 500 sq. ft., the shop may be small, but it’s mighty, stacked from floor to ceiling with confections. They include beloved brands like Pez and Jelly Belly, and Sugar Factory’s own private-label line of candy bars (in 10 varieties, including Ripe Raspberry, Milk Chocolate Caramel Peanut Butter and its bestseller, Cookies and Cream), apparel (including 15 fun t-shirts made especially for the store by Las Vegas-based Logo Apparel) and the main attraction: Couture Pops.
Sugar Factory’s patented Couture Pops take inspiration from the runway with their bejeweled reusable handles and reclosable lids, which appeal largely to women and little girls, Davidovici says. At $22-25 a piece, they’re available in 15 styles, including Disco Stick, Berry Bling and Silver Bullet, two featuring charms that dangle from the base. Customers can choose from seven replacement heads in the following flavors: Creamy Orange, Watermelon (a bestseller), Pina Colada, Bubblegum, SF Cherry (another bestseller), Blue Raspberry and Green Apple; three-packs retail for $12 each. A Couture Pop Skull Wing Combo Pack containing four Couture Pops and a small rubber ducky also is available for $75.
Sugar Factory offers three Signature Pops, too. First, there’s The Britney Spears Circus Tour Lollipop, “The Best Lollipop on Earth,” in Big Top, Ring of Fire, Baby Pink and Charmed styles. The Pussycat Dolls PCD Tour Lollipop is another exclusive offering, featuring a black stem with pink gems and a heart-shaped PCD charm; it’s available in seven flavors, including Pina Colada, Bubble Gum and S.F. Cherry. Both celebrity series lollis are sold on the artists’ respective concert tours as well as online at www.sugarfactory.com (see sidebar) and in select boutiques.
Aforementioned socialite Kim Kardashian even has her own Couture Pop, available in Silver Rainbow and Champagne styles.
Sugar Factory’s newest creation is a special-edition Couture Pop for high-end retailer Nieman Marcus, designed in an array of vibrant colors on a chic, crystal-encrusted stem with a charm featuring the retailer’s classic logo butterfly charm. The lollipop also comes with a set of four tops in blue raspberry, watermelon, green apple and cream orange flavors. It’s sold exclusively at Nieman Marcus locations and on the Web at www.neimanmarcus.com for $50 per set.
New products always are in the works at Sugar Factory. Next up: Custom candy necklace lines for celebs such as Spice Girl Mel B. Sugar Factory brand chocolate shavings are planned, too.
Also in Sugar Factory’s plans is a major expansion.
“This was our test store,” Davidovici says of the current location. And it’s passed with flying colors, if future projects are any indication. Not only is Sugar Factory the highest grossing retail space per square foot in the Mirage, but it is the first of four stores that will call Vegas home by the end of 2010.
By mid-January, Sugar Factory will have opened a second, 1,000-sq.-ft shop inside the Miracle Mile shopping plaza at 3663 Las Vegas Boulevard.A third, 1,400-sq.-ft. location will launch in April at the Monte Carlo Resort & Casino, just down The Strip.
The fourth and largest location will make its debut by Labor Day 2010 at the nearby Paris Hotel & Casino. The 15,000-sq.-ft. store will feature 6,000 sq. ft. of candy and another 9,000 sq. ft. dedicated to a dining experience of Belgian waffles, crepes, homemade gelato and pastries, among other goodies, as well as a café with milkshakes, coffee and hot chocolate drinks. It also will offer four VIP birthday rooms, built in response to demand from Sugar Factory’s star clients. Recently, the company created birthday gift baskets for Brody Jenner as well as Charlie Sheen’s daughter; it also did the candy catering for Khloe Kardashian’s wedding.
Of course, the Paris opening will feature “tons of celebrity branding,” Davidovici notes.The retailer also is considering expanding into New York, Los Angeles and San Antonio, Texas, on the famed River Walk, in addition to international locales such as Tokyo.
“We get calls from franchisers all the time,” Davidovici adds. But the retailer has decided to branch out slowly, locally and deliberately. “We want to protect the brand,” he explains.
Like most candy stores, Sugar Factory goes all out for the holiday seasons, dressing its interior and two storefront windows thematically.
Last Halloween, the retailer featured webs and skulls throughout the space as well as a giant black spider atop its main floor display: a 360° fixture on casters containing clear bins of bulk candy.
On Oct. 31, Sugar Factory also let 200 children in the door as part of a partnership with the Nevada Cancer Institute. Costumed participants were given containers to fill with their favorite sweets, served to them by staff members who also dressed up for the event.
The day after Halloween, the store started decorating for Thanksgiving, during which it sold turkey chocolates and lollipops as well as cinnamon and brown sugar stir spoons for use in hot cider, for example.
For Christmas, the store introduced peppermint swirl lollipops and 10 different gift baskets, ranging in price from $25 to $300.
This month, it will show some love for Valentine’s Day.
But “summer will be our biggest season, I think,” Davidovici says, especially since the company will boast three of four locations by then. When all is said and done, the chain hopes to set up seven storefronts in Vegas alone.
Holidays aside, Sugar Factory adds some fun to the atmosphere with themed days such as Wacky Wednesday, when employees wear crazy accessories; Wigged Out, when workers show off their favorite hair pieces; Mad Hatter Day, during which the store’s branded baseball caps go on sale; and Masquerade Day, when staff members sport masks.
“Candy is a feel-good product,” Davidovici says. As such, Sugar Factory strives to make its store a feel-good place to shop, for celebrities, tourists and locals alike. After all, Kim’s not the only one who likes sugar, baby.
Sidebar: Cyber Sugar
Sugar Factory fans whose travels don’t regularly take them to Vegas need not worry. The retailer’s Web site, www.sugarfactory.com, launched last March, allows visitors to purchase the majority of the company’s confectionery offerings such as candy and chocolate, and baskets of both. These include hard candies like Lemonheads, rock candy and Jawbreakers; Jelly Belly jelly beans; assorted flavors of gumballs; Sour Patch gummies; toffee and taffy; gum and mints; licorice bites, laces and wheels; and espresso beans, malt balls, non-pareils, candy-coated sunflower seeds, chocolate-covered raisins, and dark and milk chocolate. It even sells sugar-free confections.
SugarFactory.com features every variety of Couture Pop in stock, including all handles and replacement heads. Online shoppers also can buy Sugar Factory apparel such as baseball caps and t-shirts, and memorabilia like shot glasses and mugs. It has a clearance section featuring discounted items, as well. In addition, special-occasion and holiday gifts are available on the vibrant site, which plays candy-themed tunes and showcases Flash ads featuring celebrity consumers of its products.
Orders placed online ship all over the world, from New York to Dubai, notes Sugar Factory co-owner Steve Davidovici.
An e-newsletter featuring photos of A-listers enjoying Couture Pops help drive traffic to the URL. Sugar Factory can be found on social media sites such as Facebook, My Space and Twitter, too.