Michigan Avenue welcomes ‘candy land’ to its ranks as IT’SUGAR emporium set to open
The massive 11,400-square-foot sweets showcase is set to open April 7, just in time for filling Easter baskets.
What the world needs now is love — and candy. And in Chicago, you’ll soon be able to get that fix in a big way by visiting IT’SUGAR on Michigan Avenue.
The massive 11,400-square-foot sweets emporium is set to open April 7, just in time for filling Easter baskets. It takes over the former Disney flagship store on the Mag Mile in what the candy company calls a “retail-tainment experience,” providing a real sugar rush with curated shopping stations, large candy-made installations (like a replica of the Chicago skyline made entirely out of jelly beans!) and immersive pop-ups that make it a true candy land.
Where: 717 N. Michigan Ave.
Hours: 10 a.m-8 p.m. Mon-Sat.; 11a.m.-7 p.m. Sun.
“Candy reaches at the heart of nostalgia and reminds people of better, sweeter times … when we didn’t have all this horrific strife in the world,” says Jeff Rubin, CEO & founder of IT’SUGAR. “So, whether it’s war-like in the ‘40s when Hershey gave chocolate to the troops — to now during the pandemic when we’ve seen another jump for candy, it’s so important. We all deserve a treat.”
Rubin, who hails from Michigan where he got his start in his family’s retail candy shop, Mr. Bulky Treats and Gifts, also says that when it came time to picking a new flagship location for the IT’SUGAR brand, Chicago was a no-brainer. (The brand, with 100 locations nationwide, also has spots at Navy Pier and in Schaumburg and Gurnee.)
“[Chicago] is the candy capital of the world: Tootsie Roll, Ferrara, incredible brands like Charm’s and Brach’s and Wrigley,” he says, adding that the city is also the headquarters for the giant Sweets & Snacks Expo that comes to McCormick Place every May and will be celebrating 25 years in 2022.
Inside the Michigan Avenue sweet shop, much homage will be paid to the city’s candy lineage — not only carrying goodies from the Ferrara candy company and Tootsie Rolls of every flavor, but IT’SUGAR will also sell a “Taste Of Chicago” sampler box. Chicago-centric sweets such as Nerds, Tootsie Roll, Wrigley’s Gum, and Charms Blow Pops will be featured alongside other brands from across the country and around the globe.
Looking for “grownup” candy? The store features a line of candy-infused vodka.
The company also has a license to merchandise “Saturday Night Live” brand staples, creating confections based on the iconic “Schweddy Balls” and “Colon Blow” skits, and a new “Da Bears” treat just for the Chicago retail location.
“Chicago is rich in candy and comedy and we, too, pride ourselves on selling sugary treats as a humorous escape from everyday life, so the comedic side of it is very important to us and we are very unapologetic about it,” adds Rubin.
The Candy Hall of Fame inductee is no stranger to the sweet side of Chicago, either. Rubin’s first large enterprise was opening FAO Schweetz (a candy department in the iconic FAO Schwarz toy shop) in Water Tower Place in 1996, and he was also behind the now-closed Dylan’s Candy Bar. “It’s a dream to come back and do something on a much larger scale,” he says, adding IT’SUGAR is different than a typical bulk candy store. “It’s truly a candy lover’s paradise.”
Guests can look forward to a number of eye-catching displays like the aforementioned jelly bean Chicago skyline replica, an 11-foot Ferris Wheel made out of candy, a Lollipop Garden comprised of more than 1,000 treats, and oversized pop culture characters like Toucan Sam, Mr. Owl, Bazooka Joe set up for selfie opportunities. Plus, you’ll be able to select your favorite candies within departments dedicated to brands such as M&M’s, Skittles, Starburst, Reese’s, Oreo, Sour Patch Kids, Pez and more at individual “stations” such as the one filled with pink-only Starbursts, or another station featuring collectible Marilyn Monroe Pez dispensers.
Though he’s not able to pick his favorite candy, Rubin adds, “I only found out that Willy Wonka was a fictional character when I went to college. … I have always loved the entertainment side of retail and I love trying to do it with candy.”