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Selling Nostalgia With Trays Of Candy Buttons, Razzles, Bazooka Bubble Gum, Bottle Caps, and Pez
By Tina Traster
If the world were a board game, Penny Schwartz’s would definitely be Candy Land, a universe bursting with candy canes, Jujubes, and gum drops. Because according to Schwartz, who recently launched Penny’s Candy Creations, a gift concept company, candy is the way to spread joy and love. As well as an opportunity to forge a second, passion-driven career.
For 17 years, Schwartz, 46, a former convertible bond trader, life’s board game was more like Monopoly, a high-powered universe centered on making money, sprinkled with the challenge of being female in a male-dominated world.
From a young age, Schwartz was destined to land on Wall Street. Her dad, an optometrist, taught her to read the stock pages. She was fascinated with the stock market. She majored in economics at Syracuse University.
Through her 20s and early 30s, she scaled the ranks.
“I bulldozed my way,” said Schwarz, a Montebello resident. “I was the only female on the trading desk.”
But 13 years ago, with a five-year-old son at home, Schwartz said enough is enough. She wanted to see spend time with her son. She was tired of commuting. She left the fast track, but another lifelong obsession began to bubble up. Candy. For her entire life, Schwartz had a love affair with candy. She kept it in bowls and jars at home and at work. She changed it up for every holiday and special occasion. She scoured candy stores and followed trends online and off. She arranged gift baskets for her son’s birthday parties and for friends. She arranged trays for teachers and made platters for Super Bowl parties.
Her son’s friends really liked coming to the house for playdates.
For years, people put the suggestion in her ear. They said, ‘you should start a candy gifting company’.
“I’ve always been obsessed with candy,” said Schwartz. “I remember my mom used to take me to a local gas station and I’d run in and buy candy. And then I’d take it home and hide in it my drawers.”
“Anytime a new Oreo comes out, I have to be the first to try it.”
Candy – especially old-timey candy – transports us to the simplicity of childhood. Nostalgia is an elixir. You are young again. Carefree. Focused on pleasure.
Understanding these emotions, Schwartz has taken an emerging hobby and turned it into a home-based business during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve been messing around with this for a long time but finally this year, being home with COVID, I felt like I was ready to turn this into a real business.”
Schwartz started modestly with social media – putting out word that Penny’s Candy Creations were available via curbside pickup. Immediately the response was robust because people, especially of a certain generation, feel warm and fuzzy when they see candy buttons, Razzles, Bazooka bubble gum, bottle caps, and Pez. Literally, childhood on a platter.
For the past several months, orders have been stockpiling – Schwartz is anticipating a challenging Valentine’s day in her assembly-line factory, aka, the dining room, where all hands are on deck for arranging and packaging.
For now, the candy gift maker only sells through Facebook and word-of-mouth. She offers 12- and 14-inch trays that range from $40 to $50. Smaller box options like the Tackle Box or glass bowls, range from $15 to $25.
Though these are early days, Schwartz believes her professional future lies in “candy land.”
“I wake up at 5 a.m. and I get going,” said Schwartz. “I just dream of designing. I haven’t had this kind of drive in a long time. I’m selling joy.”