If you asked North Long Beach native Jackie Sorkin and her Candified co-owner Amy Mason to describe each other in one word, it would probably be “badass.”
The two have spent years cultivating successful, albeit radically different careers, although you wouldn’t know that if you met them now. They each wear half-heart, corny friendship necklaces, finish each other’s thoughts, and have supported one another through the extreme highs and lows of opening their first brick-and-mortar. Their families have come together as well to help them set up the store, one giant candy giraffe at a time.
Sorkin may be a familiar name to some. Her face and hard-earned Candy Queen title has been splashed across TVs and celebrity Instagrams pages. But it was a long, tough road paved only by her deep determination and love of what she does best — making really good candy.
Her parents, both immigrants, one from Mexico and the other from Argentina, met on a bus in Hollywood. She was always entrepreneurial growing up and extremely creative, but it was when she homed in on candy that things began to set in motion.
“Candy makes people really, really happy,” Sorkin said. “I think it’s because I’ve had so much darkness in my life I’ve just turned towards bring others joy and candy does that.”
She built a $25 website for Hollywood Candy Girls and worked out of her garage creating “fun foods.” No one else was making the candy creations she was doing. It was special and niche enough that it attracted celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton to commission Sorkin to make her delicious masterpieces for themselves.
Her work caught the attention of TLC show-runners, who needed a female counterpart to Cake Boss star Buddy Valastro. The show centered around Sorkin running her Hollywood Candy Girls candy and events company while juggling family life. The show became an international sensation, and soon, Sorkin was getting calls from companies in Taiwan and China asking her to make immersive candy experiences in their countries.
While Sorkin built her candy empire, Mason was helping grow someone else’s. She started in tech working with companies like Apple, then moved to Starbucks to build out the company’s entertainment brand. After Taco Bell faced a lawsuit about their ingredients, Mason helped the company rebuild from the ground up and led the launch of the brand’s notorious “Live Más” campaign.
It wasn’t until 2019 that she struck out on her own and formed Brand Masonry.
The two paths crossing happened serendipitously—Sorkin and Mason have the same hairdresser. But it could not have been a more perfect match. Sorkin is the creative, Mason is the corporate. Together, Candified was born.
“With everything going on, especially the pandemic, there’s so much sadness and darkness in the world,” Mason said. “We combined our superpowers to create something that will make people happy, and we’re using candy to spark that.”
Tucked in the middle of Belmont Shore’s Second Street next to a macaron shop opening soon, Candified transports guests into the candy haven of their childhood dreams. The store is stocked with nostalgic candy like Necco candy wafers, sour candy soda and squishmallows (if sugary goodness doesn’t entice). A grand opening is set for Friday.
Sorkin’s childhood growing up in North Long Beach “without a silver spoon” and Mason’s mission for purpose-driven business are at the forefront of their minds when it comes to accessibility. They plan on using the store to host community groups, create a pass program so kids can come in multiple times at a reduced price, and offer workshops where they set aside funds to cover costs.
“There’s something for everyone,” Sorkin said. “We want it to be accessible to everyone. If you can only do only thing, it’s gonna be the best thing ever.”
In addition to the retail and photo opportunities, which pedestrians passing by were clamoring for when the store was still prepping to open last week, the store will have a creation station, filled with multiple build-your-own projects. Basically the candy version of a Build-A-Bear or Color-Me-Mine, two brands Sorkin has always looked up to over the years.
“It’s a teenage dream, somewhere where you never have to grow up,” Sorkin said.
It’s also a place that will continue to change and evolve. Part of what make Sorkin a hot commodity for events was her ginormous candy sculptures. The duo plans to constantly change out the storefront with rotating candy sculptures so people can always see something new. The creation station will also have new activities rotated in.
While Sorkin’s immersive candy pop-up experience, Candytopia, has been successful since it launched in 2018, a brick-and-mortar is a daunting commitment.
“Jackie kept raving about Second Street, and we wanted to be part of its renaissance and revitalization,” Mason said.
For Sorkin, it was a return to home. There were certainly other places in Southern California, like L.A. or Orange County, that would have welcomed Candified, but it felt important to set up shop in the city where she was born and raised.
Their primary hope for the store is that it’s a place where people can come together, leave their problems at the door, and have some outrageous moments of joy.
Candified will open Friday at 5334 Second St.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the name of Jackie Sorkin’s prior business and to correct the name of Candified’s build-your-own projects feature.