Eugene J. Candy Co.
Eugene J. Candy Co. opened in in Bushwick, Brooklyn in March 2016. The Halloween-themed store is open year-round and stocked with eclectic sweets engineered by its owner, Eugene J., in the back room. “It’s a backwards candy store—dark and spooky,” says Eugene. “My customers are 20- and 30-year-old ‘kids.’ I see very few actual children.”
Eugene’s interest in making sweets began as a chemical engineering undergraduate at The Cooper Union. “I was making simple stuff at first—trying to make gummies. I was trying to reverse engineer from ingredient lists.” Those early experiments proved fateful: J., a lifelong fan of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, decided to pursue candy making as a business. After graduating from Cooper in 2005 and working a few different jobs including a stint at Dylan’s Candy Bar, Eugene J. opened his Candy Co. and got to work.
Eugene's signature candy is F.G. Freaks, which he concocted over the course of hundreds of hours of experimentation, drawing on his Cooper training as a chemical engineer. “Lab work is my approach. I systematically try things out, take notes like a lab report, with huge data collection on things like amounts and temperature. One hundred recipes later, I’ll have a candy...I wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning, so I can be done [experimenting and making candy] by noon. Then I open the shop. I work 80-100/hour weeks. Fortunately, I live in the same building as the store.”
J. would like to expand the business to include more varieties and get his products into other shops. In the meantime, he’s thinking of how to produce tie-ins to the anticipated Wonka prequel due out in 2023, and continuing to experiment endlessly. Eugene J. Candy Co. has a loyal following of customers who aren’t shy about making suggestions, like sour patch watermelon combined with cookie dough, or cinnamon toast crunch cereal covered in chocolate and cayenne pepper. For all his backroom experimentation Eugene continues to be surprised at how well these combos work. “I wouldn’t have thought of it.”