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Peeps Are Hopping to Their Own Store at National Harbor

By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 9, 2009

Peeps have accomplished the improbable since they were introduced half a century ago. Those pastel marshmallow chicks and bunnies have participated in university science experiments, survived battles with high-powered microwaves and inspired avant-garde art.

So why wouldn't they dare to open their own store, taking on the tough world of retail right in the heart of a recession?

The first Peeps & Co. store is scheduled to open at National Harbor in Prince George's County in November in a prime 3,500-square-foot location that sits, according to a news release, directly in front of Seward Johnson's 100-foot statue "The Awakening" -- an enormous giant crawling out of the earth.

Actually, said Marc Menick, vice president of retail for National Harbor developer Peterson Cos., it's not directly in front of the famous statue. It's a full 100 steps away. And he was quick to point out that Peterson has "full control" over the exterior aesthetic of the Peeps store, he said.

Menick acknowledges that he was wary at first. After all, his is a family divided: His father and sister devour Peeps; he and his mother could do without.

"What's a large marshmallow going to do with a store?" he recalled asking himself when he first heard that Peeps were working the neighborhood.

Oh, but marshmallows are only the beginning, he realized.

Milena DeLuca, a spokeswoman for Peeps parent company Just Born, said the store will sell a full complement of Peeps paraphernalia: T-shirts with Peeps dressed up as the Village People, plush Peeps in the traditional chick and bunny shapes, Peeps pillows, pens and key chains, and even Peeps china. (Yes, it not only exists, but some is even made by Lenox.)

No doubt the Peeps did their due diligence. Candy is big business in these recessionary times. According to market research firm Mintel, sugar confectionary sales grew an estimated 4.3 percent to $2.1 billion last year after flatlining for several years.

Just Born does make other candies that will be sold at the store, including Hot Tamales and Mike and Ike, but if they're feeling slighted, they weren't saying a Peep.

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