Candy Store Leaves Sour Taste for Some: Critics Say Sweet Shop Too Close to School
By Amanda Woods Some Upper West Siders don't have a sweet tooth for Sugar and Plumm, a store and café set to open on Amsterdam Avenue near 78th Street later this summer. They are concerned that the shop's sugary selection-similar to the offerings at several other shops in the area-is unhealthy for neighborhood children, and are frustrated that the eatery is taking over a space previously occupied by five small local businesses. The eatery also offers sandwiches, salads and burgers, to name a few, but for some neighbors, its focus on sweets is alarming. "Kids go out to lunch," said Joey Ronga, an Upper West Side resident. "They will be able to buy a lot of candy. I feel sorry for the teachers who will have to deal with the sugar rush and the crash." Sugar and Plumm would be one of many sweets-selling establishments on the Upper West Side. Within walking distance, pedestrians can find Crumbs Bake Shop, Insomnia Cookies, Sixteen Handles, Momofuku Milk Bar and ChocoBolo. "I don't think we need any more chocolates and cupcakes," said one passerby who declined to give her name. But Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, thinks Sugar and Plumm's opening will not amplify dietary and obesity problems on the Upper West Side. "It's hard for me to believe that one store will make much of a difference at this point, especially if it's expensive candy," Nestle wrote in an email. A Sugar and Plumm spokesman said that the store's bistro offerings make it different from an ordinary candy store, and healthy options are available as well. For other locals, the store's sugary offerings aren't the main problem. Five local small businesses that used to occupy the portion of the street now taken up by Sugar and Plumm's single storefront closed down last year because they weren't given renewal options once their leases expired. David Schatsky, an Upper West Sider who created the website StopSugarandPlumm.com and a Facebook page by the same name that attracted a small following of 48 "likes," said these closings are his biggest concern. "I don't have any problem that they're opening up," Schatsky said. "I was opposed to the loss of the neighborhood shops. The shops that used to be there were providing useful services to the neighborhood, and I was concerned about the consolidation of five different shops into one large business. I was concerned about negative impact on the character of the neighborhood." Schatsky added that he created the anti-Sugar and Plumm website because he was displeased with the management's original design proposal. "It was the direct result of the owners of Sugar and Plumm presenting their design at the community board meeting," Schatsky said. "The neighborhood was shocked at the design and the arrogance of the company's management." The Landmarks Preservation Commission originally turned down Sugar and Plumm's storefront design proposal, but after some changes to the plan-toning down the "cutesy" look and considering the neighborhood's landmark character-the commission approved. Leslie Richmond, another resident, is disappointed in the store's opening, relating it to a larger trend she sees in the neighborhood of big-box stores driving out smaller local businesses. "I think it's either another Duane Reade or some high-priced cupcake shop," Richmond said. "I think, where have all the shoe repairs gone? I grew up in this neighborhood, and I miss that. It's kind of changing into a neighborhood I don't really recognize." Upper West Sider Akshay Kamath, though, enthusiastically approves the store's opening. "Why not?" he asked. "You can never have too much [sweets]. It's better than a closed, empty space."
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