The ultimate, feel-good retail experience.

by John Furgurson on December 22, 2008

Why Powell’s is one of the sweetest franchise brands in the country.


I never knew a store like this when I was a kid. Even back then, a neighborhood candy store was purely fictitious. More cliché than everyday. So when I wandered into Powell’s Sweet Shoppe for the first time, it really was a first.

Industry consultants call Powell’s Sweets “an involving retail experience that taps into deep-seated emotional connections with long-forgotten childhood brands.”

To me, it’s a mood-altering drug.

It’s virtually impossible to leave the store without feeling warmer. Younger at heart. And at least a little giddy. It’s more fun per square foot than any store I’ve ever seen.  My 11-year-old daughter says it’s even better than the American Girl Doll store in Manhattan.

Powell’s is banking on the power of nostalgia to sell everything from collectable lunch boxes and pez dispensers to gelato and old-fashioned candy. They have all the brands you haven’t seen since childhood, and all the flavors that linger in the palette of your memory.dsc_0476

Powell’s is a store full of stories. And good, authentic stories are the main ingredients of success for any business. As I browse through Powell’s, or even just peer in the window, the stories come flooding back… My little sister, hair in braids, eating Fun Dip in the back of the station wagon. My older sister hording her tube of Flicks. The penny candy selection at Jack’s Country Store.  The red, black and purple licorice I loved so much at summer camp. 

That stuff sticks with you.

But Powell’s triggers more than just memories. It also triggers the imagination. It ignites the senses and conjures a latent, childlike creativity in us that gets beaten down by the demands of modern society.

Maybe that’s why I want to linger so long. It’s not just satisfying my sweet tooth, it’s filling a need for creative inspiration and optimism. I can feed off the energy of the kids and the delight of the parents. There’s laughter and smiles and buzz you just don’t find at the Starbucks next door.

There aren’t many brands that can honestly say that.

So what can you learn from a little candy store in downtown Bend, Oregon? You want customers to tell stories about you. You want products and service that create lasting memories. You want positive word-of-mouth that’s more powerful than anything you can say yourself.


Here are a few, random reviews of Powell’s from

“Move over Disneyland – this is the happiest place on earth.  I feel like I step into Charlie and the Chocolate Factory every time I come here.”  

“This candy store rocks. It has everything you want especially if you’re looking for some candy that will blast you right back to your childhood.”

“The best candy shop. Period.”

“I want to hug the person who came up with the concept of this store…they are pure genius and manage to put a huge smile on my face the minute I walk through the door!”

Interestingly, the nostalgic theme of every Powell’s store seems to work equally well on children. Because the appeal of it is timeless. The candy cigarettes that we thought were so cool, still are. The element of surprise and the sense of discovery works just as well now as it did 40 or 50 years ago.

I’m glad Powell’s came to town. Because for my children, the idea of a kid in a candy store will be very, very real. 

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

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