To find the candy-coated baseball treasure, drive to the auto shop in New Hyde Park. Enter the door on the far right — the one marked by a five-foot, neon green Gumby — pass the rainbow wall of Gobstoppers and Pop Rocks, and don’t get too distracted by the row of Silly Putty in the back.
Behind the counter, you’ll see the orange-wrapped candy bar that tastes like chocolate, peanuts and caramel, but feels a whole lot like sitting in the bleachers at the old Yankee Stadium, waiting to see what Reggie Jackson will do next.
Over 40 years after being discontinued, the classic Reggie Bar — the candy that went on the market after the 1977 World Series turned Jackson into the Yankees’ Mr. October — is back. But for now, the only brick-and-mortar shop to carry it in the country is Bobb Howard’s General Store & Auto Repair shop — a literal mom-and-pop that’s been in business since 1946.
“Boy, are we lucky,” said Eileen Caplin Wysel, who owns the store her father founded. “We have people from all over the country calling us, sending us messages, texting us, getting us through the website, saying, I need the Reggie Bar. I want the Reggie Bar. My father bought me my first Reggie Bar, my grandfather bought my first Reggie Bar, and we’re shipping them all over. It brings people back to a simpler time in their life. In the world we live in today, it’s comfort food.”
Jackson, who wanted to re-manufacture the candy ahead of the March 24 release of his eponymous documentary, announced their return on his Instagram on Feb. 18. Days later, Bobb Howard’s had sold hundreds of the bars, which are priced at $2.45. (For reference, a 36-count box of the old candy bars are listed on eBay for $4,500.) There are immediate plans for the candy’s expansion, Jackson said.
Caplin Wysel said Bobb Howard’s, a known purveyor of nostalgic candy, was contacted about the bar via Instagram. They’ve been in regular correspondence with the bar’s maker, Crystal Westergard, founder of Canadian Candy Nostalgia, and got tagged for the honor of being the first store to sell it.
Around 6,000 Reggie Bars were produced this time around, and “between what we gave away and what we sold, people got excited again. It was fun,” Jackson told Newsday during spring training in West Palm Beach, Florida, with the Astros where he is a special adviser.
And, for a certain subsection of baseball fans, that excitement has less to do with candy and more to do with the memory it evokes. There was the famous commercial (“Reggie, you taste pretty good!” Jackson says, casually sitting on a recliner, just months removed from the 1977 World Series where he hit five homers).
And on Opening Day in 1978, Jackson hit a home run in his first at-bat, and spectators, who were given Reggie Bars upon entry to the Stadium, showered the field with candy as he rounded the bases. The game stopped for five minutes while the grounds crew cleaned it up, and it made national news.
“I said to myself, God, it must not taste good,” Jackson said. “It must be terrible. But really what they were doing was just celebrating . . . It was a big hit.”
The excitement has been palpable, said Ronnie Wysel, Eileen’s husband. It’s been impossible to get fresh Reggie Bars since the 1990s, when it was briefly revived for Jackson’s Baseball Hall of Fame induction.
“They come in and look at it and they say wow, I can’t believe this, and then they taste it,” Ronnie said. “They come back and relive their youth in our store and they can also live it through their kids and their grandkids and sometimes even their great-grandkids.”
Jackson was thoroughly pleased with the early returns. Even though the candy bar didn’t gain too much traction during its re-release in 1993, there seems to be a growing taste for nostalgia. (The taste for chocolate, it should be noted, is eternal.)
“Catfish Hunter, who’s not here [he died in 1999], said the candy bar is just like Reggie . . . You tear open the pack and it tells you how good it is,” Jackson said, laughing. “That was kind of an attack on my ego but I thought it was a great line. It’s really about, can we make some contributions to different charities, my charity, and have fun with it at the same time?”
And if a few thousand baseball fans can get to relive their childhoods in the process, well, that’s just a caramel-filled bonus.
With Tim Healey