1126 Orange Avenue, Coronado
When I was eight years old, I gave up candy. My mom was scared of the whole sugar thing. Had us on All Bran, for roughage, to rush the dangerous stuff through. Guess she scared me, too. Or else I jes’ wanted to be her favorite.
After a year of living like a martyr, I fell back into the hard drugs of chocolate, sodas, and, Lord forgive me, Swiss Cream Candy Bars: ever since, I’ve been looking for them. Or, next best, anything that tastes like them. Like, for instance, dulce de leche .
I blame Carla for my latest relapse. We were over on the sceptered isle, me keeping her company till she got to Diane’s, the gal who frou-frous Carla’s golden locks.
We go into a little Spanish-style building. Diane appears. Carla says to me, “See you at the usual place?”
She means Cafe 1134, at 1134 Orange Avenue.
“Uh, sure, Sweet Chops, sure.”
Which is how I end up loitering out in front of 1134, which is why I notice the place right next door. A candy store! Man, I tried to look the other way, think good savory thoughts, and ignore it. But, somehow, I’m soon walking zombie-style, arms straight out front, into Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory. Talk about Willy Wonka. They have everything in this place, from big candy bars to Mallow Kababs to English toffee to American taffy to Stomp Rockets to Hello Kitty to candied apples, and, hey, chocolate and fudges made on the spot.
Customers, kids mostly, are foraging with bags in their hands, going from jar to jar and shoveling out Sour Patch Kids or TaffyTown wraps with names like “Cotton Candy,” “Sour Peach,” and “Key Lime.”
“Bulk candy,” says a handwritten sign, “$2.75 ¼ lb., $10.99 lb.”
The whole atmosphere is old-fashioned, but I like the left side of the store best. There, on glass shelves, sit homemade candied apples covered in chocolate; the chocolate is covered in layers of, like, peanuts, or coconut. There’s even one called “the apple pie” apple. Natalie, the gal behind the counter, says it’s dipped in caramel, cooled a bit, then dipped in white chocolate and rolled in cinnamon while still warm, so everything welds to the apple.
They have chocolate-dipped Australian apricots, too.
Thing about candy apples is that you’re eating healthy while you’re sinning, so you feel like you can get away with it. So, aw, what the heck. Hour to kill. I get “the apple pie” apple. Natalie says that’s the most popular, even though it costs $7. She cuts it up for me, slices down the four sides of the stick so you have eight chewable chunks to attack. Never seen that before.
It’s a relief, to be honest. Who knows how many broken teeth you’d get if you tried to bite into it whole?
I take the apple outside, chomp on the pieces as I wander around. Got to say, it’s way better than I remember candy apples. One, the actual apple — Granny Smith — is less sour than I thought it’d be. Two, the thin layers of caramel and chocolate under the cinnamon round out the flavor. It tastes new and interesting, the way it combines with the fresh apple flesh.
Hmm…keep half for Carla. Take it back inside for Natalie to wrap up.
While she does, oh, man, I’m looking at truffles. They have every flavor, from mint to champagne to butter pecan. Set out above them is something called Coronado Crunch. It looks like moon rocks, with white chocolate covering “peanut butter, Rice Krispies, marshmallows, and chocolate chips,” as a little card explains. Then there are peanut crumbles and fudges: chocolate, peanut butter, maple walnut…
“They make it all here?” I ask Natalie.
Natalie looks toward a merry-looking lady coming from out back. She’s got a tray loaded up with nutty chocolate. Natalie says, “Trish does. She’s the owner.”
Trish Grueser brings the tray over to a cutting board behind the counter. She’s going to cut the stuff up, I guess, and put it on display.
“Peanut clusters,” she tells me. “Here, I’ll show you the factory.”
I follow her back to the kitchen, a little room behind the counter.
“This is just one of our stores,” she says. She begins to prepare more peanut clusters. “Me, my husband Don, and our son Scott have 80 of them, franchises all over the country.”
Say what? Here she stands in this little kitchen, slaving over a pot of melted chocolate and a tray of peanuts — and she runs a candy empire?
“It began so small,” Trish says. “My husband Don was an old ‘shoe dog’ — that’s what they called what he did. He would travel to Europe to buy the latest shoes for businesses like the May Company. But he wanted to retire, so we bought two Rocky Mountain Chocolate stores in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.”
She says Rocky Mountain was a serious chocolate company, making chocolate the old-fashioned, “by hand” way. “They were good, but too serious. We wanted the old-fashioned stuff, but thought it would be good to lighten things up.”
So they became Fuzziwig’s. “We use the same methods as Rocky Mountain — no preservatives, all fresh products. But we also want the place to be fun.”
Looks like the country has responded.
“When we opened up here, Coronado loved on us,” she says. “And we loved on them right back. We decided to stay in Coronado.”
But…all these candies, the diabetes, and whatever? Doesn’t she feel a little guilty?
“I eat chocolate,” Trish says. “It’s good for you. You shouldn’t have too much, but some enjoyment in life does you good.”
’Course, I have to go the other way — overboard. Gotta try those peanut clusters. And the fudge. Oh, and that wicked Coronado Crunch.
It’s a shock when I get to the cash register. I’ve bought $26.46 worth of candies. The apple, a turtle (chocolate, toffee, cashew nuts), the clusters, the Coronado Crunch. Oh, dear.