I NEVER gave much thought to PEZ, but since Danielle and I were going on a road trip to the PEZ Visitor Center in Orange, Connecticut, I decided to learn all there is to know about those sweet little candies. As a kid, I remember PEZ being the unwanted candy at the bottom of my trick-or-treat bag. In fact, PEZ has been around for over 80 years and is its own pop culture phenomenon.
PEZ was invented in 1927 in Vienna, Austria as a breath mint. The name PEZ was derived from a combination of letters in the German word for peppermint, Pfefferminz. In 1948, PEZ candies were marketed as an alternative to smoking, the first dispenser resembled a lighter. In the 1950s, the company designed a Santa, a robot and a space gun dispenser to appeal to children. Shortly after, they produced Popeye, Mickey Mouse, psychotic bunnies and scary clown dispensers.
Today you’ll find Hello Kitty, Lord of the Rings, Disney characters, holiday, and sports theme dispensers for PEZ. The top selling PEZ dispenser of all time is Santa Claus, and the most popular dispenser line is the Star Wars collection. Amazingly, in the United States the factory goes through 100,000 pounds of sugar each week to produce over three billion candy bricks per year! The PEZ headquarters relocated to Orange, Connecticut from New York City in the 1970s, and the headquarters’ visitor center opened its doors in December of 2011.
Our self-guided tour began with an interactive history of PEZ, a 14-foot PEZ dispenser and a few sexually suggestive vintage advertisement posters.
We entered the colorful lobby and saw a huge wall displaying practically every PEZ dispenser ever made. A motorcycle hung from the ceiling, custom built by the Orange County Chopper guys. For five dollars we got an admission ticket, which hung from a really cool PEZ lanyard, and a store credit towards merchandise. Our self-guided tour began with an interactive history of PEZ, a 14-foot PEZ dispenser and a few sexually suggestive vintage advertisement posters. We caught a glimpse of the factory through a glass viewing window, and if you visit Monday through Friday you can watch the production floor in action.
We continued through a maze of hundreds of vintage and modern PEZ memorabilia pieces from promotional items to a PEZ Girl outfit on display. Danielle’s favorite dispenser was a vintage Halloween skull while mine was a black Santa Claus. We soon realized that we needed to eat PEZ…now! Our wish was granted when we spotted a huge PEZ vending machine at the far end of the exhibit. We filled our collectible tin buckets with assorted fruit, Sourz, chocolate, and cola flavored candies.
After eating way too many PEZ and attempting to make a PEZ martini later that night (don’t try it) we came to the conclusion that PEZ overload may actually be worse for your health than smoking.
For more information about PEZ, visit pez.com. The PEZ Visitor’s Center is located at 35 Prindle Hill Road in Orange. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10am to 6pm and Sunday from 12 to 5pm. Admission is $5, $4 for seniors and those under 12, and free for kids under 3.
This article was republished from Alternative Control, a Stamford, Connecticut-based e-zine where chicks and Baldwin tell you what they think about music, books, food, shows, fashion, and more.