Entering Rocketfizz in downtown Palo Alto is quite a shock to the senses. Fantastical colors blur before the eyes. Bits of “Bennie and the Jets”, “Thriller”, or perhaps Marilyn Munroe’s “Happy Birthday Mr. President,” float through the air. A delicious aroma wafts through the store, a mixture of chocolate and other fruity sweets.
Shell shocked by the general splendor a friendly cashier may break the spell. “Can I help you?” she might say. Tentatively you ask about a candy you haven’t seen in ages. It could be Sensen, or Abba Zabba, Big League Chew, or Violet Crumble, Green Tea Kit Kats or Candy Cigarettes. Does Rocketfizz have all of these? Most often it does, because Rocketfizz excels at compiling candy, soda and merchandise from exotic places and previous eras.
With every turn of the head a new splendor awaits. A huge array of old-fashioned saltwater taffy lines the left side of the store in classic flavors like vanilla and watermelon, and more creative ones such as chocolate chip cookie, mango, and caramel cheesecake. Rows upon rows of glass soda bottles wait patiently along the sides of the store; on a blazing summer day their liquid allure is irresistible. An array of flavored crickets and larvae sit beside the cash register next to a brightly covered package labeled "invisible ink." Haribo candy bags, troli bags, gummi bears and licorice wheels hang from nails along the walls. Colorful lollipops pop playfully out of a toaster, finger puppets fill a huge measuring cup by the cashier, and a blender holds sour candies. Rocketfizz, it seems, is prepared to mix delicious and unusual concoctions.
The explosion of sweets and soda is a little difficult to decipher at first. Once the initial shock has worn away, however, Rocketfizz has an underlying order. Five islands situated throughout the store contain different types of candy. The two towards the back stock American candy. One table is topped with“classics”: Snickers bars, Reese’s, Peppermint Patties, the other holds heaps of Wonka product and other gummy candy. A large zebra striped elephant guards the third island, a collection of fine dark chocolates. To the right of the door lies the international candy—candy from Asia, Europe and Britain. The British section is an especially popular table for the international folks in Palo Alto, and any American looking for a new, tasty treat. Kinder Bueno bars—crispy layers of wafer and hazelnut filling coated in milk chocolate—are an especially popular sweet. The last table holds retro candy and Rocektfizz's soda brand.
Rocketfizz carries close to 500 soda flavors, both exceptional and odd. The store’s top selling soda is bacon, which points to a fundamental element of the store, mixing the delicious with the offbeat, odd, and downright disgusting. It is stated proudly that you can make a meal from the soda collection at Rocketfizz. Start with a buffalo wing and a corn soda, end with a key lime pie or an apple crisp. If you’re worried about getting vegetables, throw in a refreshing cucumber soda for greens. Of course the excellent collection of root beer, cream soda, cola, and fruit flavors provides a tastier beverage alternative, but the point is to have both, so that Rocketfizz can appeal to the thrill-seeking candy lovers and the diehard root beer fans.
In addition to its candy and soda, signs line the walls, most with eccentric and sarcastic slogans. “Wine gets better with age, I get better with wine,” reads a jaunty reddish one. “It is better to have loved and lost than to spend your life with a psycho,” states another, showing a picture of a couple frolicking in a flower field. A collection of music posters along the walls (“ I saw them at Woodstock!” is not an uncommon utterance), evoke a nostalgia for eras past, for the soda fountains of the 50’s, the free-flowing love of the 60’s, and the upbeat energy of the 70’s and 80’s .
Through its nostalgia, its eccentricities, and its variety, Rocketfizz gathers its most poignant form of magic: its ability to bring people together from across generations, across times and across continents to bond over a delectable theme—sweets! For families who come inside with toddlers in tow, Rocketfizz is a nice after dinner treat that everyone can enjoy. For adults, or a doddery pair of grandparents, the Rocketfizz experience is one of joyous recollections, exclamations of “ I haven’t seen this candy since I was a kid! “and childlike wonder. For children of this generation, Rocketfizz is a dream, a candy haven, a social hotspot, and a place to flirt, test sodas, and giggle. For all involved it is a happy store run by one of the most kind hearted couples I have ever met, and filled with a wealth of good cheer in addition to its plentiful collection of candy, soda and various decade-specific paraphernalia.
Rocketfizz has stores throughout the country and is always looking for new franchise owners. Go to their website for more information about their candy or to learn about franchise opportunities.
Photo Credit: Megan J. Nash