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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

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Posted in Best of Alix, Vintage Photos, Vintage Pop Culture.

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25 Responses

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  1. Jody says

    It’s like Willy Wonka meets The Umbrellas of Cherbourg!

  2. Eartha Kitsch says

    You just me get a case of the gasps. Wowwwwwwwww! I finally know what Heaven looks like.

    • Alix says

      I had the same reaction Eartha!!!!!

      • jenny says

        YES!!!!!!!! i was going to say: WHEN CAN I MOVE IN?! this is totally what heaven looks like.

        those tins! my gawd! fabulous find, lady A.

  3. Alice says

    What a dream.

  4. Tiffanie says

    How did you find this? It is absolutely amazing. I am sending this link to a friend opening a kiddo shop in SF in the next few months for inspiration. Wowza!

    • Alix says

      It’s not Michelle Spear is it??

      • Tiffanie says

        OMG, how many more times are our worlds going to collide before we meet in person (tonight)?! Her partner, actually. I’ve only met Michelle once. Small town!

  5. Fuzzymama says

    I want a time machine!! LOVE IT.

  6. lishyloo says

    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.

  7. Catherine Selco says

    Orange, Orange orange! It will go from hot summer days into labor day and be ready for memorial day again!

  8. Kelly says

    I liked you on facebook!

  9. Kim says

    Fantastic! Now I want to repaint my entire house!

  10. Dottie says

    BTW, I now have an Ebay search saved for those lovely tins! MUST HAVE ONE!

  11. Carina says

    I want to MOVE THERE.

  12. emily b says

    What an amazing place! Thank you so much for sharing!

  13. John Tusa says

    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

    • Alix says

      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!

  14. David Unrot says

    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.

  15. Stephen Langenthal says

    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?

  16. Bridget from Refined Vintage says

    Wow! So interesting, I came across your blog when researching the Barton Bonbonniere company. I have a vintage Barton’s Valentines Heart Candy Box . I wish we could still visit this store today it looks so cool!

  17. Morrie Kleinbart says

    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.

    • Alix says

      That’s fantastic! It looks like such a magical place.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Frank in 1966 linked to this post on May 22, 2013

    […] is today a parking lot full of chrome. Union Square with its crowd. Barton’s Bonbonniere (wow–look!), a jeweler’s shop, a phonebooth. Men in hats. Cigarettes 37 […]

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