Dylan Lauren loves candy everything about it, the taste, the color, the packaging, especially the packaging.
“The colors remind me of the swatches I would see in my dad’s office growing up,” she told me when we recently spoke on the phone, ahead of her upcoming presentation and book-signing at the Bedford Playhouse.
The youngest of Ralph Lauren and his wife Ricky Ann Low-Beer’s three children, Dylan grew up in New York City where she attended the progressive Dalton School. She lives in Manhattan but spends weekends with her husband, the hedge-fund manager Paul Arrouet, and 4-year-old twins, Cooper Blue and Kingsley Rainbow, at the Lauren family home in Bedford.
“I was a history of art major (at Duke),” Dylan says, “so I’m really into shapes, too. I love to see a cathedral, say, made of chocolate or a beautiful flower made out of candy sugar. I love to see candy transformed.”
In love with candy, or in her words, “inspired” by it since seeing the movie of “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” at the age of 6, she founded Dylan’s Candy Bar in 2001. In addition to four New York stores including the original Manhattan flagship on Third Avenue, you can now find Dylan’s Candy Bars in East Hampton, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles. She will open a store in Hawaii this year and has her eyes on openings in Japan as well as London, a city she loves. “I would love to live in London one day,” she says, full of genuine enthusiasm. But then everything Dylan says is full of enthusiasm. Her energy is palpable and infectious.
She sources candy and chocolate from around the globe, usually finding brands she likes herself as a regular shopper in supermarkets or on her extensive travels, and then finding out who the manufacturer or vendor is and seeing if he will work with Candy Bar. She also attends speciality food shows looking for unique goods, which is an exhausting business.
“I’m old-fashioned and I don’t want to be sent stuff by email, and they don’t let you bring a rolly cart in to the shows,” she says — you can hear the exhaustion in her voice at this point — “so I end up picking up every single brochure and walking out carrying about six pounds on each shoulder.” Top shows for Dylan would be All Candy Expo and Global Shop, held annually in Chicago, the latter being all about great shop design, which Dylan embraces and incorporates in all of the stores, making them as delicious to look at as the products they sell are to eat.
In addition to the Hawaii opening, 2020 will also see a renovation of the Chicago store and a relaunch of the e-commerce website. (There is a foundation too, Dylan’s Candy Barn, whose mission is to help every abandoned animal find a home-sweet-home by hosting adoption events, highlighting the importance of spaying and neutering in preventing overpopulation and euthanasia, sponsoring and granting funds to animal rescue programs and aiding animal-welfare organizations in ending animal cruelty. With good reason she is inordinately proud of the foundation and its achievements.)
The stores, typically, sell up to 7,000 edible treats, but there are also candy-inspired lifestyle products, including stationery, toys and tech as well T-shirts, handbags and jewelry, much of it candy-themed. Several locations also sport an Ice Cream & Dessert Parlor, with party rooms that offer a wide variety of themed events for all ages. And if that conjures up images of hordes of kids strung out on sugar, it shouldn’t. Dylan’s Candy Bar, say Dylan’s people, is “not just a sugar high but a sweet lasting euphoria.”
Those “all ages,” incidentally include her twins — whom she naturally calls her “twinkies” — who not only like the candy but enjoy games, samplings and classes, like painting gingerbread decorating events that take place at the stores. They think it’s pretty cool that their mom has candy stores and, also, in true family tradition, they seem to have taken to retail like ducks to water. “They actually report back to me. They’ll say things like, ‘The store was very busy today.’” Talk about the apple not falling far from the tree.
As for Dylan’s own fancies, if pressed she is more a candy than chocolate. “I could eat Marshmallow Fluff all day,” she says, not so much a confession as a badge of honor. That’s the wonderful thing about Dylan — she eschews any sense of sin or guilty pleasure. For her, candy is joy, it is sheer, unadulterated pleasure. “I’m a red gumballs, red licorice, Swedish fish person,” she throws in.
She does have one chocolate favorite, however — Cadbury’s — which, as a Brit, I fully understand (and applaud). Its chocolate crème eggs, a confection that has almost cult status in the UK, are “awesome” and she loves “dissecting them.” I tell her she is not alone, since all Brits dissect their crème eggs. It’s just a thing to do. And when I lament the difficulty of buying them here in New York, she reminds me of DeCicco’s & Sons, which sells a wide variety of Cadbury’s chocolate in its Westchester stores.
Our phone conversation at an end, we make a date to meet in the candy aisle of DeCicco’s in Scarsdale and I add my name to the long list of people — including Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Madonna Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise — who proclaim themselves fans, not only of Dylan’s Candy Bar but of the ebullient and thoroughly sweet Dylan Lauren.
Dylan Lauren will sign copies of her book “”Dylan’s Candy Bar: Unwrap Your Sweet Life”during her event at the Bedford Playhouse, 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 12. For more, call 914-234-6704 or visit bedfordplayhouse.org. On Feb. 27, Lauren will host a Dylan’s Candy Barn event at her Manhattan flagship, where pets will be matched to humans and humans will be matched to pets.