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Incense, peppermints and bacon-flavored soda

Rocket Fizz brings back corner store memories — with an odd twist or three — to Progress Ridge


by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Lori Joel, left, and Kristin Allen are making the most of their new business venture, Rocket Fizz Candy Shop and Soda Pop, at Progress Ridge TownSquare. Some of the oddly flavored and named sodas are on display, such as Judge Wapner Root Beer, above left.Kristin Allen knew she was onto something at her new store when a woman walked in searching for Candy Buttons.

Allen didn’t have to reach very far to produce a pack of the yellow novelty treat produced by NECCO, which took it over from the Candy House company in 1980.

“She said, ‘You do not!’ and started tearing up because she hadn’t seen them since she was a kid,” Allen said. “One little girl came in and said, ‘This is every kid’s dream!’ Another man said, ‘This is the best place ever!’ “

From a senior ogling a shapely, neo-vintage RC Cola bottle, to a 40-something brightening up at the Charleston Chew or NECCO wafers he hasn’t laid eyes on since 1981, or a schoolkid working up the courage to chug some bacon- or peanut butter-flavored soda, Rocket Fizz Candy Shop and Soda Pop is the kind of store that can’t fail to evoke emotions, memories and a sense of mischievousness.

An emporium chock full of exotic sodas, candies, novelty accessories, whimsical rec-room signs and classic concert posters, Rocket Fizz opened its doors on Friday, June 28, at Progress Ridge TownSquare at Southwest Barrows Road and Horizon Boulevard.

Casting about the Internet for some type of business venture they thought the community might enjoy, Longtime friends and Tigard residents Allen and Lori Joel stumbled upon Rocket Fizz. It didn’t take long for them to fall under the spell of Camarillo, Calif.-based Rob Powell’s Willy Wonka-like world, where zany fun, effervescent nostalgia and corner store-meets-mall-megaplex sensibilities find common ground.

Getting in touch with Powell, who started the first Rocket Fizz shop with his friend Ryan Morgan in 2009, Allen, 42, and Joel, 49, toured about five of the stores and got hooked on the concept.

“We wanted a business that would work in Progress Ridge, a place kids could get excited about and come hang out,” says Joel, a former teacher at Vose Elementary School and Raleigh Park Middle School. “Everything about this brings back memories: ‘I was at that concert! I remember that candy!’ It’s about being a kid again and bringing back memories. Everybody has a story to bring in.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Kara Ebbutt of Sexton Mountain reacts after sampling sweet corn soda pop as her daughter, Sophia, 11, laughs on Monday at the new Rocket Fizz Candy Shop and Soda Pop at Progress Ridge TownSquare.

Bringing home the bacon

Aside from the one company-owned “flagship” store in Camarillo, all other Rocket Fizz shops are independently owned and operated as licensed or franchised locations. As the creators and co-owners of the Rocket Fizz system, Powell and Morgan say they select each retail store operator.

As their debut retail business venture, Allen, who has a public relations background, and Joel opened the second Oregon location of Rocket Fizz — the company’s 41st shop — on the heels of another location that Darren Gaspary opened on Southwest Sixth Avenue in downtown Portland.

“He’s been a great resource for us,” Joel says of Gaspary.

Since then, they’ve been learning the ropes of retail, sampling their plethora of sugar-centric products and channeling the child-like energy that comes over more customers than not as they enter the bright, high-ceiling store just behind the Cinetopia Theater.

The selection includes sodas, candies, novelty items, signs and posters. Some Rocket Fizz liquid flavors — under homegrown Rocket Fizz labels such as “Lester’s Fixins” and “Melba’s Fixins” — include apple pie, key lime pie, peanut butter and jelly, sweet corn, bacon, and buffalo wing. That’s right: buffalo wing-flavored soda pop.

Reactions — and facial expressions — vary wildly among customers, but Allen already has a favorite. “The ranch dressing soda is surprisingly good,” she says.

The inventory of one Rocket Fizz specialty brand, “Martian Poop Soda,” didn’t make it through the store’s opening weekend.

“’Martian Poop’ sold out,” Allen confesses. “It’s so funny that kids are walking around saying, ‘I love that Martian Poop.’ “

The odd flavors tend to play tricks with the mind, Joel notices.

“It messes with your senses, because you’re not used to drinking bacon.”

Spencer Stevens, 12, a seventh-grader at Conestoga Middle School, considers himself a bacon-flavored soda fan. “It tastes weird, but it tastes like bacon,” he says.

Will he spread the word about Rocket Fizz to his friends?

“I tell them, ‘You should go here because it’s crazy and it has everything.’ “

Everywhere a sign

For the less adventurous, Rocket Fizz offers plenty of good, old-fashioned delectable flavors, from Faygo grape and orange to a wide array of cream and cherry sodas.by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Kristin Allen, co-owner of  Rocket Fizz Candy Shop and Soda Pop store at Progress Ridge TownSquare, helps Zoe Tyler, 7, purchase candy at the store on Monday morning.

Summer Lake resident Jane Tyler and her 7-year-old daughter Zoe were drawn by the lure of the British sweets Jane grew up with before relocating to the United States 16 years ago.

“We like all the British candy,” she says. “We can’t let go of all that.”

Zoe, a third-grader at Mary Woodward Elementary School, says her favorite is the Haribo fruity pasta roulette.

“I’ll probably be back,” she says with a smile.

If it’s illustrated wooden signs and humor you like, Rocket Fizz has plenty to tickle your ironic funnybone: “Tequila — It’s a special kind of stupid.” “Coffee — You can sleep when you’re dead.” “Of course I love you, now get me a beer.” “Reality — it’s for losers who don’t play video games.”

These go for $15.99, while concert promo posters, mostly from the 1960s through ‘80s, displayed along the top of the store’s walls, are $10.99 each.

“Rob and Ryan hit on something everybody’s taken to,” Allen says of Rocket Fizz’s founders. “It takes us back to our childhoods. People say, ‘You can’t get this anywhere.’ They work hard to find these (products).”

Well aware they’ve invested in a distinctly niche market, Allen and Joel admit that reaping large profits is not why they took a new career path.

“This community has been there for us through some pretty hard times, so this is an opportunity for us to give something back,” Joel says.

“We’re gonna make it work,” Allen adds. “We’re pretty easygoing women. But we’re pretty competitive.”




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