Candy Direct is a success, but I wonder whether a man with such a restless temperament can be satisfied. "At first I said I wanted to be a millionaire at 30. And then I said I wanted to be a millionaire at 35. Well, now I'm 35, and I'm not a millionaire. So my goal now is to be healthy and happy, and money is just a tool to be happy. But, you know, we're all going to die. We're all going to become dust. Seriously. We're just here for a short time, not to get into religion or anything, but we're all the same, and we're all going to die and become dust. But in the meantime, I enjoy creating new things. I enjoy creating businesses. I'd do it just for fun. I guess it's always just still my goal: to be an entrepreneur. You know, you read where people retire and they go away to the islands for six months, and then they come back, and they start another business. That's just it. That's what we are. That's what I am. I am an entrepreneur. Other people are writers. Other people are actors. But that's just what I do. I create businesses."
Down in National City, in a corporate subdivision on the concrete banks of the aptly named Sweetwater River, Candy Direct operates out of a nondescript storefront. Through the narrow entryway where I've been interviewing Traino, the candy-crammed fan-cooled warehouse opens out in back. The storage space is small, perhaps 1,000 square feet. Upstairs is an office stuffed with computers and telephones and snaking wires.
A portable stereo softly plays 91X while I watch a driver in a white Jelly Belly truck pull up and unload Dragon Fire, Money Licorice, Pop Shot Baseball Bats, and Candy Love Beads Jewelry Kits. Three members of Traino's staff pack PayDays, Jolly Ranchers, Super Starlites and Wack-o-Wax into boxes. Monique Tatino selects candy from the shelves and carries it to Che Jones, who stuffs it into foam. Then Kinner Horn seals the boxes and affixes mailing labels. A few hundred thousand pieces of candy away, Rita Sancen arranges artful, mood-brightening candy bouquets. Her arrangements are the pride and joy of Candy Direct.
"I love to delegate; I don't like to micromanage," Traino explains. "That way, these guys can do their own thing, and they're happy, because I'm not bugging them all the time, and I'm happy because I can do my own job."
Traino knows how to get the most out of the people around him -- he seems to be a dream manager -- and he does so effortlessly. An air of calm happiness pervades the Candy Direct operation, and I daresay it isn't just the presence of so many chocolates and fruit-flavored sweets. While I wander around watching everyone work, Traino is off being industrious at his own computer, letting everybody do his or her thing.
And my thing, at that moment, is to marvel at the countless permutations of sugar. It's amazing the amount of creativity human beings have lavished on sweets. In Traino's warehouse I spy Tart N Tinys, Fluffy Stuff, Panic Buttons, Long Boys, CoffeeGo, Rain-Blo, Rip Rolls, Pixy Stix, Nik-L-Nip, Runts, Nerds, Razzles, Spree, Spooky Eyes, Crazy Dips, and Chick-O-Stick. Then there are the old standbys: Hershey's Bars, Tootsie Rolls, Baby Ruths, and so on. A veritable candy kingdom. And the king himself has granted me the freedom to wander in the treasure trove just as I please, a fantasy browse.
I stand there for some time, watching people work, imagining the contents of various wrappers. Eventually Traino pops his head around the corner, probably to make sure that I haven't contracted a case of contact-diabetes. When I remark on the relaxed, comfortable atmosphere Traino seems to foster, Monique Tatino glances up from a pile of Oh Henry! bars. "He gets us pizza for lunch ... sometimes."
"No I don't," Traino aw-shuckses, "I don't get you pizza enough."
How did Traino manage to preserve such humility as he gnawed his way through the vicious world of business? He whips up a tale of long hours and hard work, of slow successes earned through taking on arduous tasks on his own.
"I have this red Sentra," Traino explains, "it's still parked out there in the street, my old car. I'd throw all my boxes in there, and I'd drive it to the post office, and I literally couldn't see out of my window. And I'd go to the stupid post office, and stand in line, and during tax season especially people hated me. It would take forever, and there were other sellers there from places like eBay, doing the same thing I was. It wasn't fun."
If Traino has found his calling, he concedes that it has left him little time for a personal life. But he's newly married, and ready to embark on yet one more chapter of his life. I ask him if he enjoys himself, if he devotes time to other interests. "I'm pretty narrow-minded in that way. I'm trying to expand my horizons."
At times he sounds a refrain familiar to many thirty-somethings. "It's horrifying. I mean, I really should be doing some kind of sport, or mountain climbing, or whatever. I do love business, but you can't be that narrow-minded, and I'm starting to learn that. But it's hard. You really have to be here all the time. If the computers go down, then I have to be here to fix them, because they don't know how to do that."
Traino grows reflective, and a sage look stirs in his dark eyes. "You know, being a millionaire shouldn't be everybody's goal. There's all kinds of goals in life. Being a millionaire is not all it's cracked up to be. And I'm not a millionaire, but what if you don't have your health? What about the rest of life? Is it really worth it to work so hard to be a millionaire? I don't know. But now, Candy Direct is starting to run itself, and I can enjoy life, so I really need to start taking advantage of that."