When a badass biker speeds past you on the interstate, it’s fair to say you don’t immediately think rock candy and lollipops. But Wes Raley was different. Ever the rebel, he hopped on his Harley to flee the tedium of his medical laboratory technology degree. But when he hit Tallahassee, Raley wound up in the decidedly more delicious science of candy making.
Not content to remain just another kid-in-a-candy-store, Raley applied for a job at Sugar Sugar, a local candy shop he’d seen on the Food Network. There, this biker dude fully applied himself to his work without the urge to flee for the interstate. Within two months he was crafting long rolls of glossy pulled sugar, then cutting them into cheeky rock candies.
Eventually, Raley got good enough to open his own store. With the encouragement of the Tallahassee business community, he and his wife quit their day jobs and threw themselves into Raley’s Confectionary. He channeled his rebellious side into kooky creations like his “Acid Drops” (“No Affiliation with Timothy Leary”) and “Emoticandies,” a mixed bag of emoticons in awesome flavors. All we can say is :D :P *\0/*
Raley is always up for custom candies that have included everything from pentagrams to pernicious pumpkins (he even made us some spectacular indie candy canes with the word Mouth in the middle!). We think he’s a master of his art —but he says it takes longer to become a true rock candy auteur, or a “Rock (Candy) Star,” so to speak. A sweet life, indeed.
On having a one-track mind:
I'm always thinking about candy, so I've got a list of ideas that would take a lifetime of candy making to go through. I plan out some designs and flavors months in advance like our seasonal mixes, other times I just get a crazy idea and an hour later we're testing it out.
How much candy can you make at once?
I can make up to 40 pounds at once, but my arms get pretty tired. I normally keep it between 12 and 16 pounds at a time.
What keeps candy-making interesting?
I've been making candy for nearly 8 years, and the feeling of seeing thousands of gem-like pieces appear beneath your hands never gets old. There are also endless new and creative ways to approach candy. Every day I learn something. Also, the look on kids' faces after they see and taste the candy. Nobody appreciates candy like children.