August 19, 2002 12:00 PM

In an Aladdin’s cave of candy, complete with a giant lollipop tree and bar stools made to resemble Starlite Mints, a man and woman engage in a unique ritual. Each bites into a piece of gum, takes three paces, turns and blows a bubble. This is how Dylan Lauren and Jeff Rubin, owners of Dylan’s Candy Bar on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, resolve disagreements—like whom the store should be named after. “Whoever’s bubble pops first loses,” says Rubin, adding, “You can’t burst Dylan’s bubble.”

Nor, it seems, can you burst the store’s bubble. Launched in October 2001, Dylan’s has sold $5 million worth of candy and become the destination for kids’ birthday parties—which can cost up to $7,500—including ones hosted by Katie Couric, Kelly Ripa and actor Peter Gallagher. “It was every child’s fantasy,” says Ripa, 31, of her son Michael’s fifth-birthday bash, “but I think I owe each parent a free dental screening.”

A candy lover since childhood, Lauren, 28, daughter of designer Ralph Lauren, briefly worked as an event planner before entering the retail sweets business. She hooked up with Rubin, 38, a candy entrepreneur she met through friends, and began going after the carriage trade with $200 white chocolate carousels and $10,000 candy artwork. “It was hard for me to understand because I’m not a candy eater,” says Dylan’s dad, Ralph, 62. Now, he says, “people come up to me and say, ‘I love Dylan’s store.’ ”

Lauren, who is single, and Rubin, wed to home-maker Allison since ’89, hope to expand to every major U.S. city soon. “You can’t lose with candy,” says Lauren. “Sugar is a biological thing.”

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