The Magical World of Barton’s Bonbonniere

I love discovering something that just makes you go, “Oh WOW.” This is one of them! Back in 1938, Viennese chocolatier Stephen Klein started Bartons Salon De Chocolat in the New York area. They had great success creating delicious European-style chocolates and even expanded their line to produce kosher chocolates—earning a reputation in the Jewish community  for being “the” confectioner for Passover sweets. As demand increased, they opened more and more shops. In 1952, as they prepared to open their 50th store in Manhatten, they decided to give their brand a refresh. And what a colorful refresh it was!

Can you believe this place? I love it. LOVE!!!

Every colorful detail was intentional as can be—and quite unlike what was happening in architecture and design at the time. Apparently the rules for store design included missives like “the store front must look modern” “strong colors should not be used; they overwhelm the merchandise” and even “don’t call attention to the ceiling and away from the merchandise”. CLEARLY the brains behind Bartons had their own ideas!

In the August 1952 issue of Architectural Forum, architect Victor Gruen said “store design is taking itself too seriously,” and was determined to turn the candy store into a visual delight. They began by giving the traditional storefront a vibrant paint job that made it stand out on the street.

Together with graphic consultant Alvin Lustig, they set about to create a “toy shop for adults”. The plan? Clever displays, vibrant colors and whimsical Calder-esque light fixtures that were guaranteed to make customers smile and put them in the mood for some candy shopping! (It’s no coincidence that “Lustig” means jolly/lively/fun in German!)

Ahh, those lamps. No detail was spared and even the candy tins were colorful and featured fun illustrations. This spectacular one is my favorite:

So there you have it. The technicolor world of Bartons Bonbonniere! It’s amazing, isn’t it?

OH! And for those of you who would like to see a little slice of this awesomeness, head on down to LACMA in Los Angeles. They are having a special exhibition on California Design and THE LAMPS are featured!


images: article / tall candy boxes / round candy box

25 thoughts on “The Magical World of Barton’s Bonbonniere

  1. sometimes when i really like something or something is really cute, i just start swearing about it. it’s a very odd reaction like tourettes or something so i can’t really comment on how i feel about this because the swears come out.

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  3. Hi
    I appreciate the history. My father owned four Bartons Candy Stores in Manhattan in the 1960’s maybe even 50’s. In 2006 I was employed on 34th St { Madison Ave. I had an opportunity to salvage a surface mounted signage panel with the Bartons script on a yellow vitrilite glass background in a trunkaded ovel shape. Has anyone see this signage before? John

    1. WOW John!!!! How cool! I’m so thrilled to have you comment. Do you have a photo of the sign? I’d love to see it! Thank you so much for commenting!

  4. This is fascinating. Stephen Klein was my mother’s first cousin, her family hailing from Vienna. As a child living in NYC, we used to receive frequent gifts of Barton’s candy from the company. My mom spoke kindly of her cousin.

  5. Does anyone remember the very first Barton’s shop in New York City? I remember that it was on Broadway, just north of 80th Street. It was probably 1938 or 1939. I was amazed by it because the front door was thick but it had round glass portholes. It was a very small shop and not too long after it first opened they moved to a much larger shop at 81st and Broadway.
    The first shop was right next to Zabar’s. Zabar’s have photographs of the block in the early days, but the photographs show a Lash dress shop in the location where I remember the first Barton’s. Which came first?

  6. I just came across this. I cannot thank you enough. My late mother worked for Barton’s for many years. She supervised stores in Brooklyn till I was born then went back to work when I was in 6th grade and managed stores all over the city. These photos are just great.

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