I’m excited to finally be back after an extended (and somewhat unexpected) hiatus, so I thought I’d kick-off my return with a tasty confectionery photo hunt from 1980.
I last tackled a photo hunt way back in 2012 when I presented a series of candy merchandising photos from 1975. Today’s subject is a bit different as the candy was not the focus of the photographer’s lens, but rather the shopkeeper enveloped within it. I’m also excited to share the photo as it is the work of acclaimed American photographer, Eli Reed.
Photos of candy stores and candy displays from the pre-digital age are exceedingly tough to come by. For me, any vintage photo like this one presents an opportunity to peel back the layers of history and glimpse another time. Occasionally these glimpses provide answers to unsolved confectionery mysteries though they can just as often raise new questions. In every case I delight at the chance to explore them.
Before I get to today’s photo, I’d like to share some info about its creator, photographer Eli Reed.
I feel fortunate that I was able to track Mr. Reed down and get his permission to publish this photo. Though I wasn’t familiar with his work before this encounter, I’ve since enjoyed reading about his accomplishments and been inspired by his body of work. Not only that, but I’ve happened upon Mr. Reed and his work on the eve of the publication of his career retrospective, Eli Reed: A Long Walk Home.
Here are links to a pair of Eli Reed’s previously-published books:
So that’s a little bit about the man who took the photo, now let’s get to the photo itself.
Taken in Detroit in 1980, I do not know the identity of the shopkeeper pictured, yet the moment captured in grainy black and white film tells at least a part of his story.
From the boxes of Cheer detergent to the cookie jar on the shelf to the lit cigarette in the shopkeeper’s hand, this is a gritty scene from a bygone era. The display boxes of candy nestled between rubber bands, straws and rolling papers create a cacophony of consumerism from a simpler time.
This is a photo I’d like to step into to have a better look around. While that might be impossible, I have taken the liberty of zooming in on a few areas so that I might isolate the individual candy products this gentleman’s shop stocked. I’ve also gone though my archives to match up my of-the-era vintage packaging which I’ll present after checking out the close-ups. Here we go:
On the shelf above and directly behind the shopkeeper is a row largely made up of offerings from the Ferrara Pan company.
Directly below that shelf we find another, stocked with a Sweetheart Straw box next to a cookie jar (contents unknown) finally joined by a row of classic confectionery treats as well as a box of Topps baseball cards.
Remaining on that same shelf level, but wrapping around to the next wall is another cookie jar, this time filled with cookies. Next to the cookies is a nice variety of chocolate treats and one more Ferrara Pan offering, Alexander the Grape.
Just out of reach of the shopkeeper’s lit cigarette is a trio of Mars brand bars as well as a display box of Bubblicious bubble gum (that may also house a few packs of Hubba Bubba). Note the matchbook kept handily within reach.
Next we jump to the top of the field of vision for a look at a few more items as well as a hint of the shopkeeper’s personal life. Note the improvised hanging light as well as the personal snapshots strung across the top of the mirror.
I mentioned that pouring over this kind of photo can occasionally raise new questions and that was certainly the case when I saw the Double Thick Razzles display box on that shelf. I thought I was fully versed with the Razzles offerings of the 1980 period and as far as I knew, at that point they were only sold as an assorted fruit flavor variety. Yet based upon the large “Raspberry” written above the Razzles logo, it appears as if there was a dedicated raspberry flavor offered at the time.
F0r my last close-up we peer just over the shopkeeper’s left shoulder to see what can be seen.
Within this last zoom I found a candy classic; Wacky Wafers, Rain-blo gum and even Leaf’s Kick-Off bubble gum (that each came with miniature plastic NFL football helmets). But most intriguing to my eye was a product that appears to be called Nut Niks. My guess based upon the style of artwork is that Nut Niks was a Fleer offering of some sort, though I cannot be sure. I am sure that I’ve never seen them before – so Nut Niks is a new discovery!
Now that you’ve seen all of the zoomed-in looks at today’s candy hunt photo, I’d like to share a selection of packaging from my archives, These pieces source from 1980 and likely match up with the products that were being sold in that Detroit shop on the day the photo was taken. Here they are:
And that’s everything I could find to match up with what was discovered in the wonderful tapestry of that photo. I hope you enjoyed the confectionery photo hunt and I’ll see you next time!
Nothing better than old photos to find items we had never seen or information we thought was correct to only find out we were way off. Great job!
Nice detective work! I love old store photos like this.
Wow…absolutely amazing photos and article! Those close-up shots are incredible. Great reporting, as well. I really enjoyed this one. Top stuff, Jase!
PS: I love the Ferrera Pan photos!
Great read – I’m willing to bet some of that candy could have been on those shelves for several years.
So all I’ve been able to find out about Nut Niks is that the Canadian trademark was registered to Ce De Candy Ltd. of Toronto…the manufacturers of Smarties.
Great research, Sparky. Beyond the blurry photo that I published in this post, that might be the only other mention of them. Eventually I hope to come across an example of them in my research, but for now the quest continues. Good hunting!