Dylan Lauren on city noise, healthy candy and NYC business reqs
Dylan Lauren, 37, is the owner of Dylan's Candy Bar, the Willy Wonka-inspired ode to all things sweet on the Upper East Side, East Hampton and Houston. She lives with her husband, asset and hedge fund manager Paul Arrouet, on the Upper East Side.
What would you most like to see changed or accomplished in NYC? Cars, sirens, street cleaners, delivery trucks need new mufflers and car alarms. . . . Noise pollution is definitely an added stress here. There are signs (stipulating fines for unnecessary honking) but no one reads them. They need to make the truck and car engines and brakes quieter - why do commercial trucks always have the loudest mufflers? - and there needs to be more awareness. Maybe they could make cars to control for the sensitivity of car alarms. Maybe there needs to be special lanes for fire trucks and ambulances. I walk everywhere and I like to hear the other person when I'm talking on my cell phone.
Aren't walkers using cell phones part of the problem? You guys talk loud, and you complicate sidewalk navigation. Oh, no. I’m conscientious.
What do you think about the new NYC Health Dept. grading system? We got an “A,” but I would eat at a place that gets an “F” – though I might not order fish there. I like atmosphere more than the food. I like to check out new places and I have a good eye for what looks gross and I trust my own judgment. It’s a good thing to have a health department come in, but some of these ratings are random: In all restaurants, there are times something is left out and the inspector might come in at that exact moment. What I dislike the most is that the grade is an unattractive sign on the door. I don’t like having a letter on my door even if it is an “A”: It blocks people from looking in! Restaurant critics don’t sway me at all.
As a business owner, what do you think about the livable wage legislation before the City Council? The what? I don’t know enough about that. That’s not something we’ve been discussing lately. We try to keep our staff happy. If I followed every news thing, I’d be freaking out. We have people in human resources (who keep track of worker-related issues).
What’s your greatest challenge doing business in NYC? Keeping people coming back! New Yorkers are finicky. You have to lead with what’s "now" and constantly change things up to keep it fresh. Look at how clubs and hot spots are constantly coming in and going out. We change our store windows 13 times a year. Fashion struggles because it only has four seasons. We create holidays when there are no holidays: Graduation! Fashion Week! Summer! Back to school!
So your challenges don’t involve the city bureaucracy? The bureaucratic things in NYC are not big issues. We have a hot dog vendor who has the right to stand outside our store. He blocks our windows with his ugly cart and aesthetically, it bothers me, but it’s more of a humorous thing. I knew getting this (East Side) location I’d be able to get a liquor license, but we got a permit to serve alcohol fairly easily - in East Hampton we have to get all kinds of permits in order to serve ice cream because different agencies are in charge of things. We’re opening in Miami and encountering all kinds of things we don’t encounter here: Our logo is nine colors but the preservationists want to maintain art deco colors. In Miami we’ll probably have to do awnings that are black and white, because they have a lot more rules.
What can we expect in terms of fresh candy trends? Healthy candies: Candy with gojii berries and acai stuff.
You’re an art history major. What are your favorite temples of art in NYC? The architecture – just walking around past the brownstones on the Upper West Side, or on Museum Mile itself. MOMA, The Met – they’re all right at my door step. Recently, I went to the Met for the Sevres porcelain exhibit, but I really love pop art.
You live and work in the vortex of temptation. How do you stay a size 2? Weight training and aerobics and exercising consistently. I eat the candy, but I’m careful to have protein and to work out. My teeth are fine, incidentally. My dentist said people can get cavities no matter what they eat.
You’ve said that you were inspired to create your stores after seeing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as a child, but are you sure you weren’t inspired to update Economy Candy on the Lower East Side? Gotta ask – Have you ever been to Economy Candy? I’ve been there, but in my adult life. I walk into all the Worlds of Nuts and Tasty –Lites. I like supporting candy people!
What’s the best investment a New Yorker can make? A gym membership. People really need to stay healthy and have a place to release their energy and stress. I go to L.A. Sports Club. Working out helps keep the people around you happy, too.