Charleston store brings candy to life, looks for new location
A 9-foot, blow-up T-rex greets customers through the window of Robot Candy Co. on King Street. Wind-up toys, pop rocks, cherry pie mint and toxic waste bubble gum sit among hundreds of sugary concoctions inside this tasty wonderland.
At a glance
COMPANY: Robot Candy Co.LOCATIONS: 322 King St., Charleston; and 644-I Long Point Road, Mount PleasantOWNERS: David and Lisa PerrettAGES: He’s 46; she’s 44FROM: Originally from ConnecticutRESIDENCE: Mount PleasantFAMILY: Two daughters: Reid, 11, and Reagan, 7EDUCATION: David: University of Kansas, 1990, majored in history; Lisa: Western Connecticut State, 1992, majored in illustrationWORK EXPERIENCE: David: several marketing and advertising firms, including Berlin Industries in New York City, he formerly owned Sterling Direct Marketing in Mount Pleasant and Vertis Communications in Manhattan. Lisa: former owner of It’s a Lulu children’s book illustration business, now called Lisa Perrett Designs.WEBSITE: www.robot candy.net
But the star attraction in this downtown Charleston business is 100 different kinds of gummy treats with some very unusual names and shapes in a kaleidoscope of colors.
Chicken feet, Army guys, snails, fried eggs, frog babies, fire fighters, brains and pineapple bears beckon to feed the most discerning customer’s sweet tooth beside traditional gummy bears and a huge assortment of other rubbery-like creations.
In business for three years, the candy store will leave its current 1,500-square-foot site at 322 King St. on June 1, but it’s not going away.
David and Lisa Perrett operate another candy shop with a birthday room in Belle Hall Shopping Center off Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant, and they are actively looking for another site in downtown Charleston that offers more foot traffic in the evenings.
“Almost everything around here closes at 6 p.m.,” Lisa Perrett said of the King Street shop. “We want to be where everybody is moving around in the evenings. We are on a fancy block, and we need to be on a funky block.”
Two areas being eyed for the relocation are the rapidly redeveloping upper King Street corridor and the tourist-heavy City Market area.
They hope to find a new place soon so they can open it just as the current store is closing.
“We want a smooth transition from one place to another,” David Perrett said. “King Street is our bread and butter, so we know we want to be in the downtown area somewhere.”
The Perretts first moved to the Charleston area in 2003 after visiting the city over the course of three days. They moved to Daniel Island and then to I’On in Mount Pleasant. He operated his own marketing and advertising firm for five years until 2008. She illustrated children’s books and still does.
They rented out their house and returned briefly to New York as the recession set in, but they came back to the Charleston area in 2010 with an idea.
While in New York, they recognized the after-effects of taking their children to special candy stores.
“They enjoyed it so much, that they would talk about it for the next month,” Lisa Perrett said.
“It was an experience and it built memories for them,” her husband said. “We wanted to create that same experience as in New York.”
They tossed the idea around and came up with their own candy store called Robot Candy Co., a name that was fun and had a space-age modern feel but was also traditional.
“It tied in with my marketing experience and her work with illustrations,” he said.
They created a T-shirt with robot figures and are looking to branch out by creating characters to go with certain pieces of candy.
They’ve designed Robot Happy Snack to go with a maple, crunchy candy, and Little Miss Fireball for those red hot fireballs.
Coming soon will be Spudnik O’ Chipley for chocolate-covered potato chips and a yet-to-be-named cowboy figure for root beer barrels.
“When you attach a character to it, it makes it more special and fun to buy,” Lisa Perrett said. “It’s like giving candy a personality.”
The store is so popular that visitors sometimes ask them if they can open their own franchise in another city.
“They think we are part of a chain, but we are not,” David Perrett said. “We are a locally owned business.”
But because of those franchise inquiries, the couple is now looking into the possibility of franchising. They are not ready yet, but one day we might see a whole chain of Robot Candy Co. stores across the nation. Well, maybe.
They also are talking with a local theater chain to get their wares into the lobby concession stand, but that’s just in the early stages.
For now, they are concentrating on finding another spot to replace their King Street store and build on the sweet reputation they have created.
“We want to be the place that people go when they think about Charleston,” David Perrett said.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.