Powell’s Sweet Shoppe opened its doors to a special group of children from Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School during its soft opening on June 11. Five lucky golden ticket winners, having found the tickets in Wonka bars a la “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” had the shop to themselves for a full 30 minutes of shopping, compliments of the store’s owner, Melissa Schuyler Gilleon.
Stephanie Fields, 10, came with her mother, Wendy Fields of Clairemont.
“She’s just really excited that she won,” Wendy Fields said. “I think it’s pretty special to come on the first day.”
Carrie Morgan, a special education technician at the school for children with special needs, said Gilleon’s best friend, Karla Wagner brought a box of candy bars to the school and handed it out to students in three classes. Five of the bars had the precious passes to La Jolla’s candy hot spot.
Unfortunately, a couple of the winners could not attend because of mobility issues.
Gilleon wanted to open her store to the Lindbergh Schweitzer children because of her own experience with special needs kids. Her son suffered a traumatic brain injury, and Wagner’s nephew was a former student at the Clairemont elementary school.
"(My son) was in a wheelchair,” Gilleon said, “and a lot of these kids are in wheelchairs. I gave them the golden tickets so that they would not have to be looked at funny or pushed. They have carte blanche.”
Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, 1000 Prospect St., is the first Powell’s franchise in Southern California. Established in 2003 by entrepreneur Michael Powell, in Windsor, Calif., the shop invites visitors to step back in time to enjoy their favorite old-fashioned toys, games and goodies.
The store carries more than 5,000 varieties of candy including popular favorites, nostalgic candies, gourmet chocolate and novelty treats. Visitors can also enjoy gelato and handmade confections from the display counter.
Will Bomar, owner of another franchise store in Petaluma, Calif., came down to help Gilleon open her store.
“It’s a sensory overload because it hits every sense,” Bomar said. “The biggest thing I hear in my store is, ‘I didn’t know they made that anymore,’ ” Bomar said.
The view from outside the shop’s large plate-glass window is like looking into a child’s dream. Toys and candy are stacked floor-to-ceiling. The smell of sugar and chocolate wafts out the front door, tempting passersby to stop in. Laughter and candy-themed music lure people in to find out what’s so magical about Powell’s Sweet Shoppe.
Once inside, it is hard to take in all the sights. There are brightly colored giant suckers, bins of M & Ms and Jelly Bellies, shelves of European fine chocolates, a cooler filled with retro soda like Frostie Vanilla Root Beer and Moxie Blue Cream.
A former dental hygienist from Pacific Beach, Gilleon opened the store after visiting the original Powell’s.
“I wanted to get out of the dental field and have a business of my own,” she said. “I drove up (to Powell’s), walked in and said, ‘This is the business for me.’”
Gilleon’s son Seth is helping with the La Jolla store, but already they have plans to open a second location downtown or near Seaport Village. It took a year and a half to find the right spot for their first shop, so Gilleon’s not in a hurry.
For now she is savoring the sweet satisfaction of opening Powell’s in La Jolla, which she described as “a chocolate kiss and a warm hug.”
“I’ve been waiting for this day,” Gilleon said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Powell’s Sweet Shoppe submitted their story idea through the La Jolla Light’s
“Submit a Business Profile”page.