This morning, after a pre-opening dedication and ribbon cutting, Gibson Girl IceCream, Candy Palace and the Penny Arcade returned from a long refurbishment and opened for business. The "new store smell" is heavy in the air and there were a lot of suits flittering about adjusting and managing.
Let's start with Gibson Girl. In short, it's stunning. They have pushed the service counter to the back wall and lavished beautiful art nouveau wooden ornamentation everywhere.
The Penny Arcade.
This is where purists may have a hard time. They have taken the Starcade approach here and used the arcade as a theming element rather than an actual experience. The penny arcade movies are still here, Esmerelda still tells fortunes, and the organ still plays. But they have all been sidelined by a larger cash wrap, a new larger case for pastries, cookies and candies and the like. Regardless, the detail here is top-notch work. Really quite beautiful.
The biggest expansion is, of course, Candy Palace. The tiny kitchen of the past is gone. In place is a kitchen that is three times bigger and even more windows to view the craft of the confectioners. Another possible sour note for some is the removal of the indoor seating for Coke corner. It is now, more Candy Palace.
As with the Emporium and Star Trader expansions, the cash wraps have been pushed to the walls and queues have been installed. This will certainly help with traffic. as there are many more registers than before and less dead space.
For purists it may be a move in the wrong direction, veering ever closer to the WDW business model of homogenized stores and eateries. But for this correspondent, it seemed to be a be an adjustment in layout and merchandising that accommodated the spending habits of current visitors without sacrificing the detail or theme.