The plan was simple.
Last Wednesday I was to head to Chicago’s River North neighborhood, check out Sugar Factory’s new brasserie and store, and make eye contact with Backstreet Boy Nick Carter long enough for him to fall in love with me and propose on the spot.
Sounds easy, right? Well, two-thirds of it was.
Sugar Factory’s newest location, which opened Dec. 10, continued its celebratory festivities by hosting Carter, Howie Dorough and Brian Littrell of the Backstreet Boys, who were in the area to perform for 103.5 KISS FM’s Jingle Ball at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont. After the show, they stopped by Sugar Factory to try candy-inspired drinks and a monstrous ice cream sundae.
A gaggle of fans — mostly female, between the ages of 22 and 27 — waited for the group in the lobby, which features candy-button wall décor and bulk candy dispensers. As a long-time enthusiast of both sweets and the Backstreet Boys, I waited with them.
Before the guys arrived, fans sung along to BSB’s hits playing overhead, including “As Long as You Love Me” and “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).” When the Backstreet Boys finally made it through the revolving door, they were each handed one of Sugar Factory’s signature, gem-studded Couture Lollipops and shepherded around the crowd of selfie-snapping fans.
And as for my nuptials? Unfortunately, I won’t be taking the name Carter anytime soon (largely because the 36-year-old boybander is already married), but the Backstreet Boys’ visit serves as a perfect example of Sugar Factory’s mission to pair starpower with over-the-top sweets for a unique and memorable experience.
“It’s happy, and I think that’s the whole brand,” Sugar Factory founder Charissa Davidovici told Candy Industry in 2013. “Everyone loves sweetness and happiness.”
It starts with the restaurant décor. With chandeliers, a marble bar and tabletops, and dark, Victorian booths, the brasserie exudes glamour. Photos of celebrities at other Sugar Factory locations line the walls, adding to the effect.
The drinks are just as lux. I tried a Lemonhead martini, which was sweet and tart, just like the retro candies. The Coconut Chocolate Bar martini tasted like a boozy Mounds bar, which I imagine was the intent.
Sugar Factory is known for its fishbowl-sized goblets, available in fruit and candy flavors. Some even come with candy, such as the White Gummi goblet, complete with gummi worms.
But the brasserie is only part of it. Sugar Factory also has large selection of bulk candy, as well as grocery aisle regulars and nostalgic and novelty items.
Combining cocktails and candy seems to be a successful formula. The River North location joins one in Rosemont, which opened in 2013 with a visit from Kylie Jenner, a makeup maven and Kardashian half-sister.
Sugar Factory also has locations in Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Florida, the Philippines and Dubai. More are set to open in Orlando, San Francisco, San Diego and on Times Square in New York.
If the Backstreet Boys make an appearance, I’m there.