Rachel Flores and Bill Waiste, husband-wife owners of P.O.P. Candy in Santa Monica (the wholesale biz address), are as different and brittle and toffee. She's a greeter and grinner; he's more of a reserved listener and cautious smiler (until you get him all sugared up about something). And so they make neither brittle or toffee, but a hybrid butter crunch candy — not too stiff, not too sticky. A delicious compromise.
“I've always loved Almond Roca because it's more toasty and buttery than toffee,” says Flores, who tells a tale similar to many small food business owners. You know, the one about bringing a batch of your home baked goodies into work and the office going wild (we love that she spends her nights covered in butter and sugar and still works at UCLA's School of Public Health). Flores also happened to have handy at-home help with navigating all the red tape of opening a food service business (Waiste formerly worked in the restaurant and food service industries). And so in December 2007, the couple debuted P.O.P. Candy, named after a circa 1950s/60s amusement park on the Santa Monica pier at the Mar Vista Farmers Market.
But a single product does not a farmers market stand make, so that almond variety soon gave way to various other single-nut crunches (pecan, pistachio, spicy pistachio) and mixed nut varieties. “Then we thought, this candy is so damn buttery, why not infuse it with fresh herbs?” says Flores. Indeed.
But as Waiste points out, these weren't blind love pairings. Their inspiration for new combos have had a solid relationship history. “We were eating this rosemary chicken… and we thought, why not?” he says (the couple's first herb candy was a rosemary-almond variation). “Once we cracked the herb barrier, we started thinking about everything, even things like turkey stuffing.”
And so that cherry-walnut-thyme butter crunch was born. Though inspired by the couple's Thanksgiving stuffing, the final version was vastly different. “Yeah, it turned out sage wasn't very good in the candy, so we went with thyme” says Flores, flashing a smile at her husband (they married earlier this year after ten years, and that candy biz launch, together). “And Bill suggested the walnuts.” The cranberries also got swapped out for dried cherries.
Later, it was a Chai tea granola inspired candy — only this time, the granola is actually in the bar (made by Amy's Nuts). After tasting the granola at the farmers' market, Flores and Waiste asked her amp up the Chai for more punch and folded the granola into their butter crunch. The result is essentially a granola bar encased in candy. But hey, all granola bars are essentially candy, so why not? And it's good.
With the busy holiday season approaching, Squid Ink wondered what exactly do candy makers dream of? Miles and miles of chocolate rivers? “We dream of having more time for R&D to come up with new flavors,” says Flores. Oh, and cooler L.A. summers. “The candy was screaming this summer it was so hot.”
P.O.P. Candy: Check the P.O.P Facebook page for rotating Farmers' Market stand availability (currently Mar Vista and Torrance), special events (craft fairs, food fairs, this weekend's Artisinal L.A.) and retail shops (Wine Expo's new retail shop), or order online at www.gopopcandy.com.