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In 1996 Bradley Ellison, a.k.a. Sugarman, started Sugar Daddies vending company in Staten Island. He placed thousands of machines throughout New York City in pizza parlors, supermarkets, and corner shops.
Due largely in part to a cash economy, his business flourished, shaking down every neighborhood kid for their milk money in exchange for a sticky hand, bouncy ball, or a handful of candies.
In 2004, he finally made it big with the “Homies” series (arguably the most popular vending toy of all time), grossing over $1 million in sales.
We traveled to New York City’s forgotten borough, Staten Island, to find out how Sugarman created a small vending empire—and how he subsequently lost it—one quarter at a time.
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