Why are grownups waiting in line to buy candy on the LES? An investigation.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine – who is 26 years old – told me in all seriousness that she wanted to spend her birthday stocking up on candy from a shop on the Lower East Side.

She described a space she’d seen on TikTok that had buckets full of colorful gummy skulls, licorice pieces and gummy soda bottles. This shop has been located on Allen Street since 2018, so why the fuss, and why now?

I dove into TikTok expecting to see videos of parents and excited children doing unboxings. Instead, I saw clips upon clips of mostly women in their 20s documenting their experiences at the store, including waiting in a line that stretched out the door.

A person fills a bag at BonBon candy store.

Photo by Rose Marina Boubion / Gothamist

BonBon was started by Swedish immigrants and friends Robert Persson, Selim Adira, and Leo Schaltz. They have since expanded to locations in Williamsburg and on the Upper East Side. All the founders previously worked in other industries, but have said they always wanted to bring Swedish candy culture to New York.

On its website, BonBon says all its products are imported from Sweden and highlights its gluten-free, gelatin-free, vegan and natural flavors.

The store offers candies and flavors that can be hard to come by in the United States, such as salty licorice fish, gingersnap chocolate bars called Marabou, and the beloved caramel-chocolate bar, Daim.

Candy at BonBon goes for $18 a pound, and they sell premade mixes and wrapped candies you can order online for around $20.

But could any candy be worth the wait? I had to find out.

Beware the restock.

BonBon is so popular that it took me two separate visits to buy some candy.

The first time I visited, around 2 p.m. on a sunny Saturday, about nine people were in line when I arrived.

A line of people, all waiting for candy.

Photo by Rose Marina Boubion / Gothamist

In front of the shop, two women sat on the bench eating their candy. Sedsil Ostbjerg, a Dane who now lives in the East Village, was with her friend, Rebecca Davidson.

“American candy is just not very good,” Ostbjerg said when I asked why she was there.

Davidson, who studied abroad in Denmark, chimed in.

“In Scandinavia it’s normal for adults to eat candy,” she said. “Here it feels like you can only eat dark chocolate as an adult.”

In the brief time I’d spent chatting with them, the line for the store had more than doubled — now there were about 25 people.

I walked over to take my place in line, but about a minute later, a store employee informed the crowd that BonBon would be closing for an hour to restock candy.

A stash of bins at BonBon.

Photo by Rose Marina Boubion / Gothamist

Quiet murmurs went through the line, which mostly dispersed. Two men hopped out of a black van parked at the curb and immediately started unloading boxes of candy.

I had to leave because I had a flight to catch. Note to self: Allow 90 minutes next time.

BonBon, part deux

I returned the following weekend, around 2 p.m. on a warm Sunday afternoon. About six people were in line outside, which gave me hope I’d get some candy.

Taking my place in line, I chatted with River Demetri, a customer from Brooklyn. He had come to buy candies after seeing them featured in ASMR videos on TikTok. On the app, there are a slew of videos of people loudly chewing their candy into a microphone, because the sound is (supposedly) relaxing.

“I literally just stopped what I was doing and came to get some,” Demetri said when I asked why he was there.

As we waited, an employee handed out sour gummy fish to sample. As I bit into the blackberry-flavored candy, my excitement was reinvigorated. It had a wonderfully realistic fruity flavor. When compared with, say, Haribo sour bears, this candy had a slightly softer texture and a brighter flavor, punctuated with sour sugar.

A bag from BonBon

Photo by Rose Marina Boubion / Gothamist

After about five minutes of waiting, I was let inside and joined about five other people. The shop was painted cotton-candy pink, and clear buckets filled with treats lined the walls. It was organized by type: gummy, licorice and chocolate.

At a table near the door, I grabbed a scooper and a pink paper bag, and got to work.

I wanted to try as many types of candy as I could without literally picking one of each — that would be obnoxious to other guests, time-consuming and expensive. I made some safe bets, including fruity-looking gummies and sour skulls, and some I assumed I wouldn’t like, including the licorice-based sweets. I also picked some chocolates that didn’t resemble anything I knew.

After weighing my candy at the register, my bag came out to $8.82 for about a half a pound of goods, including tax. Then, I stepped outside to dive in.

What I enjoyed

Pretty much all the gummies were a 10/10 in my book. The texture was a bit different compared to gummies I’ve had from Trolli, the maker of gummy octopi and sour crawlers. BonBon’s was almost sponge-like with a more marshmallowy chew.

Every gummy tasted like the food it represented, whether it was the customer-recommended fizzy pop or the foamy pear ovals. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the sorbisar, a chewy, sour combination of licorice and berry.

But not much else from the licorice section tickled my fancy. The chocolate section was interesting, with combinations I was ambivalent about, like chocolate-dipped licorice and white chocolate-dipped gummy bears.

What to know before you go

Go on a weekday if you can.

Weekends are busy. If you want to be able to walk in quickly and grab your pick, a shop worker told me they don’t usually have lines on weekdays. If you only have time on the weekends, I noticed that before 2 p.m. was less busy. While BonBon is open until midnight daily, friends who frequent the store said they’ve encountered empty shelves when they went after 8 p.m. on weekends.

Be prepared for rain or shine.

Waiting in line, there isn’t much cover. The benches outside the shop offer some shade but are usually occupied by customers enjoying their purchases.

Leave extra time.

If you’re expecting this candy run to be as swift as a bodega trip for a snack craving, you’ll be disappointed. As I mentioned, my first visit to BonBon was thwarted by a midday closure for restocking. These don’t happen every day, but they’re common enough that they’ve been documented on — where else? — TikTok. My advice? Leave at least 20 minutes to wait in line, browse and pay, and then give yourself a cushion of 10 minutes.

Would I return?

Yes. Although I have plenty of sweets to satisfy me for a while, I do see myself returning in the future. I particularly liked the fruit-flavored Swedish fish (not the kind we know here in the United States, which are notably absent at BonBon), the fizzy pops, and the rum-punch chocolates. And if you just can’t or won’t wait in line, you can order the store’s candy on delivery apps like GrubHub, DoorDash and Postmates. You can even have it shipped to your home — but due to increased demand, deliveries currently take up to three weeks.

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