Rocket Fizz has become a household name across Ventura County as children of all ages get their retro candy and soda fix and reminisce about their pasts or pasts that might have been.
But confection and fun are also serious business, and for Rocket Fizz founders and owners Robert Powells and Ryan Morgan, the job is never finished.
Powells and Morgan will celebrate their third year in business Feb. 20. In that time, Rocket Fizz has grown from one anchor store in Camarillo to 28 stores in California, Colorado, Nevada, Nebraska, Arizona and Tennessee.
Franchising opportunities are just the beginning, however. Rocket Fizz has a distribution center in Los Angeles County and a manufacturing facility for its own soda label. It imports novelties and candies from around the world. And as the business continues to grow and profit, it's doing so without bank financing or loans.
"We used to own the stores in Westlake Village and in Pasadena," Powells said. "We decided to sell them so we could focus on running the business and keeping the Camarillo store as the sort of headquarters."
Morgan's sister, Angela Morgan, is in charge of training and support. Virtually all franchisees come to Camarillo at some point to learn how to run the stores.
PHOTO BY ANTHONY PLASCENCIA
Robert Powells packs a bag of candy for Erin Deslaurier (left) and Taryn Holgun of Camarillo at the Rocket Fizz store in Camarillo.
Ryan Morgan, who is married and has two children, said Powells and he work about 70 hours a week or more.
"It definitely takes its toll, especially with traveling so much to the new stores, but it's also calculated, and we do what we have to," Morgan said.
When stores open in California or relatively nearby, Morgan brings his family with him. They just returned from San Luis Obispo, where a store will open, he said.
Franchises, which are self-funded, run about $110,000 or more, depending on certain variables, according to the pair.
"I handle most of the franchising and finances here in Camarillo," Powells said. "It shouldn't be that way and wouldn't if we could get banks to work with us, but we can't. Banks aren't in business to lend money."
While the founders don't want to talk revenue, the rapid growth and success of each store is a clue to Rocket Fizz's popularity.
"The owner of two stores in Nebraska was nominated by the governor there for retailer of the year," Morgan said. "You have to love that."
Early on, Powells persuaded a relative, Judge Joseph Wapner of television's "The People's Court," to put his name on a root beer label for Rocket Fizz. Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi from the MTV reality series "Jersey Shore" will have her own label, too. The company also has novelty soda flavors such as bacon, jalapeño and green apple, and Buffalo wings.
In an industry that grew 4.1 percent last year and is worth about $29 billion a year, according to the National Confectioners Association, Rocket Fizz has found a niche.
"We're in the business of selling fun, and part of the fun for us is making sure that it stays that way," Morgan said.