Sugar Factory: ‘Bling’ on those Lollipops
Sugar Factory’s Charissa Davidovici talks about international expansion, franchising, and getting her lollipops in the hands of all those celebrities.
Charissa Davidovici was never going to open a regular candy store and sell just plain lollipops.
She had big dreams for her first Sugar Factory store in Las Vegas, and she’s one of those special people who actually believes she can make her dreams come true.
Think couture lollipop with glitzy handles that sell for as much as $69 for a three-pack. Really? Of course. Get celebrities like Britney Spears, Nicole Scherzinger and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino to create their own lollipop handles? Obviously. And then get even more star power by getting everyone from Katy Perry to Jerry Springer to stop by your stores? Done and done.
Open the first franchise location in The Middle East? Yep. Time it so that four new stores are all opening this fall? Sure. And make each store bigger than the last? How else would Davidovici do it?
Specifically, Davidovici now owns five Sugar Factory locations, and there’s a sixth location in Bahrain that’s run in conjunction with the Bahrain-based brand, Haute Cupcakes. And, four more locations are opening this fall all over the country, with three more slated to open in 2014.
The first location of Sugar Factory opened in June 2009 in The Mirage Hotel and Casino. The 500-sq-ft. store was just the beginning for Davidovici.
Since then, she’s opened a 1,000-sq.-ft. Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood and a 2,700-sq.-ft. MGM Grand Las Vegas location.
And, there’s the Sugar Factory’s flagship retail location — a 2,800-sq.-ft. shop in the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. Aside from the chocolates, treats and sweets, the store also stocks candy-inspired apparel and novelty items, as well as the company’s signature Couture Pops. Like many of the Sugar Factory stores, they also offer signature sundaes, milkshakes, cupcakes, gelatos, ice creams, and cafe treats.
Meanwhile, Sugar Factory’s first East Coast location was the American Brasserie’s. The 3,000-sq.-ft. shop opened in April 2013 in New York City’s famed Meatpacking District at 46 Gansevoort St.
The shop also offers an on-site restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, late-night dining and, of course, endless decadent desserts. And, beyond the main dining room of the Brasserie is the Sugar Suite, an intimate alcove available for semi-private dining, parties and events for groups of up to 50 people.
Davidovici says she’s learned over the years to create bigger stores — the better to stock more candy in.
For example, the new Brooklyn location opening this fall in the Barclays Center — which houses the new Arena where the Brooklyn Nets will play — is 4,000 sq. ft. It’s slated to feature a retail store on the arena side half and possibly a party room on the other side facing the street traffic, Davidovici says.
Sugar Factory also recently reached its first licensing agreement to open its first franchise location. And it also happens to be the company’s first international store. Davidovici says Sugar Factory was actually approached about the idea and decided to run with it.
The location is run in conjunction with the Bahrain-based brand, Haute Cupcakes, and is located in a Ritz-Carlton. The 300-sq.-ft store offers all of the Sugar Factory brand in Bahrain’s business district. There’s a large selection of sweet treats, such as bulk candy and baked goods by Haute Cupcakes, as well as a collection of playful and chic retail merchandise, including stylish T-shirts, hats, coffee mugs, glassware and more.
Davidovici says Sugar Factory is already working with other partners as they look to open other franchise locations, and the planned Chicago store slated for 2014 will likely be a franchise agreement as well.
“The whole thing is growing and spreading our wings as much as we can, but still maintaining our brand,” she says.
Creating Couture Lollipops
A very large part of that Sugar Factory brand is couture lollipop handles, which are available at Sugar Factory stores and online. The crystallized handles match with 10 different interchangeable flavored lollipop heads, which can be replaced and switched out. Each one also had a plastic case, so they don’t have to be eaten all at once.
“It’s a great accessory,” Davidovici says.
They sell for anywhere from $22 for a Verde Couture Pop to $69 for the three-pack of Hello Kitty Couture Pops.
Selling lollipops for that much money is a lot easier when celebrities are involved though, and that’s where Sugar Factory shines. Davidovici always planned to get some star power behind her brand and that’s what inspired the blinged-out lollipop handles in the first place.
“I wanted something that I could get in those celebrity hands, something that could represent Sugar Factory,” she explains. “That was kind of the whole goal.”
The company’s first partnership was with Britney Spears. Davidovici says Spears sold a line of the couture pops on her tour, and the rest is history.
Now, Sugar Factory’s website features a celebrity gallery with an alphabetical listing of photos of famous folks posing, mostly while holding the crystallized lollipop handles. The list of celebrities is too long to count, and the names range across all genres and generations, from Demi Lovato to Mario Lopez, and from Mike Tyson to P. Diddy.
Sugar Factory offers the couture pops in different lines, including celebrity lines, a Hollywood line, and a new Las Vegas line that features little charms like Four Aces and Lady Luck. They’re also planning to release a Brooklyn line in conjunction with the new Sugar Factory location in the Brooklyn.
“People collect them,” Davidovici says.
The couture pops aren’t the only candy inside the massive Sugar Factory stores though. Each location is decorated in bright colors, and celebrity photos on the walls, and, of course, an immense array of confections.
There’s a huge selection of bulk candy, Sugar Factory’s private label candy, including its own line of chocolate bars, and then they also have all the classics, like Snicker’s and nostalgic candy.
“If we have space we’re going to add as much as possible,” she says.
Davidovici admits that with so many stores and so much expansion in the works, it can be hard to keep everything organized. And, as the mother of two young girls, ages 3 and 7, she can’t always travel to the various locations as often as she’d like. But, she says she relies on her team to keep things moving forward, including Tom Recine, director of operations and partner, and Michael Gillet, corporate pastry chef.
“I do have a family and going around with the two little ones is sometimes tough, and I just have a really good team,” she says. “I have an executive chef and every week we meet together, and we understand each other. We all just really work well together, because I can’t be in every place.”
Even with everything going on, she does still make time to give back. Every year at Halloween she hosts an event with the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation.
For the last three years she’s held the event at the store’s flagship location inside Paris Las Vegas, and her hope is to do the event at every location this year.
Sugar Factory opens its doors and candy bins to children who are suffering from cancer, and the kids get to fill their candy bags with all the candy they could want while everyone is decked out in Halloween costumes.
Davidovici holds the event in honor of her mom, Linda Leff, whom she lost to cancer when she opened her first store.
“All the families have come from the beginning and it’s really great to see that kids are doing well,” she says.
All in all it seems Davidovici has done a pretty good job of not only making her dreams come true, but making dreams come true for a lot of people, too.
“It’s just been a blessing. It’s happy and I think that’s the whole brand,” she says. “Everyone loves sweetness and happiness.”
And a little lollipop bling, of course.
At A Glance: Sugar Factory
Founder: Charissa Davidovici
Number of stores: Six
Flagship location: Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino
Executive team: Tom Recine: director of operations and partner; Michael Gillet, corporate pastry chef