What if someone told you that Willy Wonka and Bertie Bott from Harry Potter got together and had a child. I bet you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that that child opened his very own candy store in Brooklyn, New York.
Tucked away inside a tiny storefront hides a whimsical array of sweets and treats that only one who refers to themselves as a “candy alchemist” could concoct.
The Candy Alchemist
Not much is known about the man behind the candy except that his name is Eugene J. A real-life Willy Wonka, his secret to the colorful candy gems in his shop lies behind a purple, velvet curtain. Your only hint to his method of production is the constant whirr and tumble of machines as they produce prototypes of the candy man’s latest inventions.
He briefly explains the complicated process to NPR, “There are so many variables: the temperature, the humidity, you have to look at solubility charts, when you add certain ingredients, at what compositions, at what times.”
An Engineer Becomes A Candy-preneur
This mechanical description of this footloose and fancy-free food makes sense when you learn that Eugene J was a former engineer. While he toiled away in a lab during the day, at night he indulged his creative tendencies experimenting in the kitchen with corn syrup and gelatin.
Although his tests didn’t always produce the expected results, Eugene J. was undeterred, and eventually, he found himself selling his creations outside of nightclubs in Berlin.
He recalls the memory to NPR saying, “I would bike out at 2 a.m. and out of a briefcase sell my double-sided lollipops” to club-goers wiling away their time in line.
Bolstered by his success, Eugene J. left engineering to move back to New York and apprentice at Dylan’s Candy Bar. Although he wasn’t making his own candy when he worked at the shop, he did learn a thing or two about technique.
While he was working, he began acquiring candy making equipment that was more professional than the blow dryer that he had been using to create the hard outer shells of candies like M&Ms and Skittles. These small changes which were a blow to his hairstyle (according to NPR, he won “most fab hair” at Dylan’s), were a boon to his craft.
Eugene J. Candy Co.
Last year he opened his own colorful world: the Eugene J. Candy Co. Most of the products he stocks are not his own.
Instead, he sources oddities like wax fangs and gummy brains from various small-batch manufacturers across the U.S. Eugene J. does, however, make one product all on his own. He calls it FG. Freaks — a sly credit to Willy Wonka’s rival, Fickelgruber.
Similar to Wonka’s Nerds, the FG. Freaks are globular balls of zesty, crunchy flavor. The big difference is the size. Unlike Nerds, these asteroid-shaped candies are quite large with an uneven and undulating outer shell.
However, Eugene J. tells NPR that that’s the way he likes it. “There’s something to embrace about the perfectly imperfect.”