By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Growing up in Westlake Village, Justin Kerner often went to a Rocket Fizz located there after school with his friends.
“We all loved it,” Kerner said. “It closed down but I had good memories of it.”
Years later he went on a family trip to Lake Tahoe, where a Rocket Fizz had just opened. He thought of that candy and soda shop when he visited Lake Arrowhead with friends.
“I was walking around Lake Arrowhead Village, asking myself what they needed here. It seemed like a similar atmosphere to Lake Tahoe so it seemed like Rocket Fizz was something needed here,” Kerner said.
He entered into talks with the Village and came to an agreement to lease the space between Claire’s and Mr. G’s For Toys. After having a local contractor make improvements to the space, Kerner opened his Rocket Fizz on May 4.
The goal, Kerner said, is to make people feel nostalgic for what used to be. “Candy stores used to be very popular, in the 60s and 70s. The purpose of Rocket Fizz is to bring back those old memories. And kids love candy!”
They have plenty to choose from, with more than 10,000 pieces of candy in the store. Kerner couldn’t even begin to estimate the number of varieties. They offer a lot of the classics – like Chunky bars and Charleston Chews – and novelty items.
“People either want to try those novelty items for themselves or they get them as a gag gift,” Kerner said.
Each vendor he buys from has different products from which he can build his order. As a franchisee, Kerner is given the liberty by the corporate office to choose what he wants in his store.
“We will adjust our inventory according to what sells,” he said.
In addition to all the various candies, Kerner offers more than 300 varieties of soda, including a pickle flavor that General Manager Ariel Foster said has proven very popular.
“Either people like pickles so they will purchase it or it piques their curiosity,” Kerner said.
Soda was his obsession when he was younger, he noted. At the Rocket Fizz he frequented, he would get a Japanese soda called Ramuné. “You push down on a plastic device to open it and that plops down a marble. That marble is its novelty.”
Of course Kerner stocks Ramuné in his store.
As he was planning what to stock in the Lake Arrowhead store, Kerner spotted a number of Bob Ross items on the vendors’ inventory lists. “My younger sister Lexi loves Bob Ross. When I saw the vendors offered Bob Ross items, I had to get them for her. When they came in, I Facetimed with her so she could see them.”
The late painter has a cult following so Kerner expects those items – mints, playing cards and even a lunch box – to be popular with his customers.
Each Rocket Fizz location is independently owned and operated, Kerner noted. “Everyone has the same list of items they can order, offered by the vendors, but they may not order and carry the same items. In different areas, certain things sell better.”
Kerner has stocked German chocolate and other foreign candies. One of his favorites is called Hello Panda; he describes it as a cracker with chocolate. Then there are the Japanese gummies that emulate a hamburger and fries and even sushi.
When he saw that gummy sushi on the vendor’s list, it spirited him back to elementary school when his class had a cultural week. At that time, Kerner said, “I thought candy sushi would be fun. When I saw the gummy sushi, it took me back.”
In the first few days the shop was open, people were really enjoying the salt water taffy. They love being able to pick their own, Kerner said, adding the customers will use utensils to pick up the individually wrapped candies and then put that utensil in a “dirty” bucket.
Kerner has also added stuffed animals, posters and tin signs to the store. People like the vintage signs a lot, he said. “Some are pretty funny. Others cater to Lake Arrowhead with a woodsy aspect. Visitors can take them home and remember their trip,” he said.
Kerner said that, even before the store was open, people kept coming in because they were curious about what was going into the space.
“We have gotten amazing feedback from the community and visitors,” he said. “They were excited a candy store was coming in.
“Rocket Fizz is filled with fun, energetic stuff,” he added. “It’s colorful and vibrant in here. Come in and get excited about what you will find.
Rocket Fizz is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., staying open until 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.