Everyone, get set — there’s a new candy store in town, and its grand opening has set the stage for some very sweet business.
Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop in Novi held its grand opening in mid-August, and the reaction was, in a word, delicious!
Mark Fogarasi of Commerce Township owns the unique franchise in the Fountain Walk Shopping Center, which features more than 500 flavors of glass-bottled sodas made with cane sugar (even Michigan favorites Faygo and Vernors), a large variety of candy, including hard-to-find and nostalgic favorites, salt-water taffy, and tin signs, gag gifts and movie posters.
Fogarasi (the name his Hungarian father’s Friedman family used to escape the Nazis) welcomed the public to his store Aug. 18 and 19. The event featured illusionist Marc Rosenthal, Dave the Silly Magician, a bounce house and obstacle course, and a life-sized version of the game Candy Land. Eddie Murray, former Detroit Lions kicker, was on hand to help with the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“I’ve always owned my own companies,” said Fogarasi, “and I was searching for something that was already figured out for my retirement. I could never see just sitting still and not doing much.”
The 50-year-old entrepreneur and father of two young sons became a bar mitzvah at Beth Abraham, graduated from Oak Park High School and lived for a year in Israel.
He has been involved with many different ventures as a plumber, builder and general contractor. He continues to own and operate a contents restoration company, Insurance Restoration Services, and Dry Mark, a water removal and mold abatement company servicing residential and commercial properties.
The show Undercover Boss led him to this latest opportunity.
“I’d spent the past five years looking for the right franchise to retire into and also for my family to work for,” he explained. His stepdaughter Rebecca is Rocket Fizz’s manager. “Then I saw Undercover Boss one evening, and discovered Rocket Fizz. I thought it was such a cool, unique concept, and we don’t have anything like that around here.
“Growing up in Oak Park, there was a candy and ice cream store called Pub. All the kids loved that store. There was also Farrell’s, a special restaurant that served big ice cream treats and had a candy store you could visit at the end of your meal.
“Those two places had a lot to do with my decision to create something that would not only bring back great memories for people my age, but also create great memories for kids.
“And the reactions we get from the kids when they come into the store are the best in the world,” he continued. “My younger children absolutely love the store, but have a hard time understanding why they can’t eat anything they want — considering that we own it! They have a lot of fun helping us stock the shelves and unpack the candy.”
Fogarasi noted that he gets candy not only locally, but from all over the U.S. and the world, including England, Japan and Mexico. The store offers healthy alternatives, too, like sugar-free candies and soda. But, he said, it’s the nostalgia and offbeat and unusual items that really fuel the customers’ interest.
“People are just blown away that they can come in and get a soda from when they were kids and are shocked to see we have so many different types of colas. There are more than 40 different root beers. We’ve also got some really funny flavors, like Ranch, dirt, grass and chocolate, and we recently got in a pickle flavor soda that’s been in the news.”
Yet it’s more than just the Jewish people’s connection to food and sweets that drives this businessman. Fogarasi also is giving back to the community by raising awareness and needed funds for local charity “Blessings in a Backpack Michigan,” a nonprofit organization that distributes backpacks filled with six meals’ worth of non-perishable food to at-risk students to help them from going hungry and contribute to their academic success.
“It amazed me to find out how many children go home from school and don’t have enough to eat. I’m so glad to know this organization is there to educate people about this issue and I’m glad to be part of it,” he said.
Fogarasi spoke with emotion about how his family would have been proud of his hard work to create a special store like his.
“My father was an immigrant from Hungary, and my mom is from Canada. They’re two of the hardest-working people I’ve known,” he said. “I lost my father four years ago and can’t imagine what he would think of this store. He told me his mother owned a candy shop. I think this might be why I found this business so intriguing.
“I hope my father and my grandmother are looking down and can see how they impacted me and my family with their ideas and values.”