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By Kevin Shalin
If you thought hard candy was a thing of the past, Wesley Raley will make you think again. After dropping out of medical school, Wesley talked his way into a job as a candy maker apprentice. Eight years later and with invaluable experience under his belt, he realized a personal dream and opened Raley’s Confectionary in February of 2013. Treatsie recently caught up with Wesley to find out more about his unique confections.
Treatsie: How many different flavors of your hard candy does Raley’s currently produce and which one is the most popular?
WR: Part of the fun of making candy is trying out new and interesting flavors. We normally have a couple dozen in stock at any given time, but we make hundreds of flavors and some of the ones in the seasonal mixes are really interesting such as sweet potato, cheesecake, and eggnog. All of our flavors are natural of course. The most popular flavor is the variety mix. People love looking at the artwork in the candy and guessing the flavor. It’s just a matter of popping a piece in your mouth to see if you’re right.
Treatsie: What drew you to making hard candy as opposed to other types of confections?
WR: There are just a handful of people in the US that can make hard candy like I do. It’s a dying art. The world already has thousands of bakers and chocolatiers, but not very many people are doing artisan hard candy. I like doing something unusual that people take notice of and say “wow! I’ve never seen that before” or, from the older folks, “I haven’t seen candy like that in 50 years.”
Treatsie: Is it a labor-intensive process?
WR: Yes! Folks are always saying things like “I don’t trust a skinny candy maker. You must never eat your product.” The truth is, I eat candy all of the time, but because the candy is completely handmade we get a heck of a workout in the kitchen. The only machinery we use is a 14″ long pair of scissors.
Treatsie: What’s a typical day like for you?
WR: I usually head into the kitchen around 9 a.m. During the first part of the day, I’m answering e-mails, ordering ingredients, paying bills, doing accounting and paperwork. Then it’s time to print the orders for the day and start getting candy packed and boxed up. At about 4 p.m., the rest of the crew shows up and it’s time to get the kitchen set up and then we make candy until midnight. Most days are pretty jam packed, but I like it that way.
Treatsie: What’s been the most rewarding part of your business?
WR: There have been so many rewarding parts. I love hearing from the customers. It’s mind-blowing how special something as simple as a piece of candy can make someone feel, and it’s really cool when folks write in and remind me of that. I also enjoy the people that I work with. We’re like family. There’s a pretty peculiar type of joy that comes from seeing something beautiful come from your own hands. That never gets old.
When and where was your last vacation?
WR: Snowboarding in Colorado. There’s nothing like sliding down a mountain in the freezing cold to make you appreciate a nice hot kitchen.
Where do you go for a great steak?
WR: I head to my own kitchen, bust out a cast iron skillet the salt and pepper shaker. I turn my stove as hot as it will go and sear that bad boy until the smoke alarms go off. If the smoke alarms are calibrated properly you should have nice scorch marks on the outside and the meat should be red and juicy on the inside. Let rest and serve with twice-baked potatoes, green beans and cornbread.
What’s your favorite candy…other than your own?
WR: I have a major weakness for any nutty candy bar. Payday’s are great as well as Snickers.
Favorite all-time movie? WR: Kneejerk reaction: The 5th Element.