Why Rocket Fizz is bubbling up in Pittsburgh

Source - Pittsburgh Business Times
Published - October 12, 2015
Original Article

Why Rocket Fizz is bubbling up in Pittsburgh

Rocket Fizz, a national soda and candy franchise, has its eye on western Pennsylvania with a deal in the works with the Waterfront in Homestead.

The franchise operation is being represented by David Glickman, who specializes in retail leasing for the Pittsburgh office of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. He expects Rocket Fizz to establish from three to six locations in western Pennsylvania, which could come from different franchisees.

Glickman said Rocket Fizz seeks out high-traffic locations of a few thousand square feet near restaurants and movie theaters in shopping centers, where it serves as both an impulse shop and a destination.

It's not alone in this retail niche. In the region already are Katy’s Kandy, which has been expanding throughout the region, and Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop, with locations in the Strip and in Beaver, along with mall-based candy stores such as Sweets from Heaven.

Rob Powells started his candy store franchise with partner Ryan Morgan in the depth of the recession in 2009 and getting turned down for financing from 13 different banks.

“It was the worst of the worst. We had to fund it guerrilla-style,” Powells told the Pittsburgh Business Times.

So the partners sold 10,000 pieces of fake dog poop sourced from Asia, helping to launch the first soda-and-candy store of northern California-based Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop, now a franchise that has expanded to 111 locations throughout the country. Only three are corporate owned, and the rest are franchises.

“The joke is Rocket Fizz is partially financed on fake dog poop,” said Powells. “And that’s the truth.”

Powells, who starred in an episode of the same reality show “Undercover Boss” that also featured Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, detailed the lengths Rocket Fizz goes to in order to offer a distinctive selection of sodas and candies. The shops sell more than 500 different kinds of sodas, with more than 100 proprietary brands produced by Rocket Fizz.

That includes soda flavors such as Bacon, Buffalo Wing and Martian Poop, as well as a variety of celebrity branded soft drinks, such as Snooki Wild Cherry, after the reality show star, Rowdy Roddy Piper Bubble Gum Soda and Judge Wapner Root Beer, after Joe Wapner, the former host of the television show, “The People’s Court,” who Powells said is a distant relative. Powells added Rocket Fizz also seeks to contract with “really obscure, hard-to-find candy manufacturers from all over the world."