Bar None

Screw Willy Wonka. Colin Redding is our very own chocolate wizard, a man with his own candy factory who's willing to make a 40-foot dildo out of chocolate (although he'd rather not). He's even pulling a Wonka by sneaking golden tickets into chocolate bars sold at Changing Hands Bookstore (ticket holders win a tour of the factory -- imagine!). And if Redding, who co-owns Granny's Chocolate Creations with his parents, Lynn and Merry, won't reveal the secrets of chocolate -- its politics, its ingredients, its effect on the rain forest -- it's not because he's being wily, Wonka. It's because he doesn't know. Still, he gives a sweet interview.

New Times: So. Granny's Chocolates. Is there a Granny?

Colin Redding: It's Granny's Chocolate Creations. And there isn't necessarily a Granny. My parents have a wonderful sense of humor, and they used to say, "Yes, there's a Granny, she came over from Russia on a boat with the chocolate recipes sewn into the lining of her coat."

NT: You're cracking me up! Is working with your family a bittersweet experience?

Redding: Ha-ha. No, more like a bitter pill to swallow. I figure a year from now I'll be in a padded cell, drooling on myself and banging my head against the wall. Actually, I love my parents. They're out of town for five weeks right now, and I'll get more done while they're away than I will the whole rest of the year.

NT: They'll be delighted to read that, I'm sure. Are you a dark or milk chocolate kind of guy?

Redding: I like the dark. Without nuts. I'm a purist. I really like chocolate.

NT: How come you're not big as a house? You own a chocolate factory -- shouldn't you weigh 400 pounds?

Redding: I don't really have a sweet tooth. I grew up in a house where sugary foods weren't allowed. I came home from college for the summer and they'd bought a chocolate factory. And I'm like, "Who's going to pay $20 for a pound of candy?"

NT: Yeah. Why is everyone so gosh darn in love with chocolate?

Redding: Because it makes you feel good. It's magical, and brings you back to your childhood. If you're feeling crappy -- can I say that?

NT: You can say "fuck," if you like.

Redding: Okay. So things are shitty, you're kind of down, chocolate is that thing that makes you feel better.

NT: Not everyone. I've met people who don't like the stuff.

Redding: Like you?

NT: Look at these thighs. These are not the thighs of someone who doesn't like chocolate.

Redding: Well, not liking chocolate is just a red flag for other, deep-rooted psychological issues. Chocolate is recession-proof. It's powerful stuff.

NT: It can kill dogs!

Redding: Dark chocolate can. You can probably feed your dog milk chocolate, but bittersweet baking chocolate, like you use in baking -- if your dog eats that, he could die.

NT: Because?

Redding: Because it's too much good, man. I have no idea. I think I read once that it has something to do with cocoa butter content. It's lethal to them or something.

NT: I refuse to believe that chocolate is an aphrodisiac.

Redding: That's a myth that makes for great marketing. I've heard that chocolate can release the same endorphins as when you're in love, but then if you don't really know what love is . . . I don't know. It's indulgent, it tastes good, it feels good in your mouth, it's silky smooth on your tongue.

NT: I've read that chocolate is good for you. But all it does for me is make my ass bigger. How is that good?

Redding: I don't know. I should be able to spit out a bunch of chocolate facts, I know.

NT: I want you to know every single thing about chocolate.

Redding: Let's see. On a chemical level, the darker chocolates have a certain number of antioxidants in them. The cacao bean is helping to make you healthier, at a certain point, I guess. You're going to play back your tape [of this interview] and think, "This guy is an idiot."

NT: I would never think such a thing!

Redding: There are some studies that say there are things in chocolate that are good for your heart, but who's funding those studies? Hershey's, Nestlé, Mars.

NT: I can get three Hershey bars for a dollar at my corner grocery. Why should I drive out to Gilbert and buy expensive shit from you?

Redding: It just tastes so much better. It feels better in your mouth. It's like the difference between Jack in the Box coffee and pure Kona coffee. I don't drink Thunderbird, but I do drink some really good red wine. You know?

NT: I know! And I read that cocoa trees are really sensitive and only grow about 20 degrees north and south of the equator. These trees sound rare. And you're killing them to make Snickers bars!

Redding: It's not just [the chocolate industry]. I mean, cocoa butter is in a lot of products. Lipstick.

NT: Sounds like we're headed for a cocoa shortage. Will chocolate be hugely expensive in the future?

Redding: I don't know. I hope not.

NT: You're the chocolate man! Who the hell else am I going to ask these questions?

Redding: I know. I'm upsetting you. I guess you'll just need to do a little more research. Because even though I'm in the [chocolate] industry and I should worry about these things, I don't.

NT: Well, you can at least tell me who that creepy-looking weirdo on the home page of your Web site is.

Redding: That's one of our first employees.

NT: And what is he eating? It looks like a giant sheet of human waste.

Redding: It's not a he. It's a woman. And she's eating a big thing of toffee.

NT: Sorry. I thought it was a little kid. Speaking of your Web site, what -- and I'm sure I'm going to be sorry I asked -- is a Big Daddy's Pretzel Rod?

Redding: It's a pretzel rod that we dip in caramel, then chocolate, then roll it in fresh-roasted pecan pieces. It's just huge.

NT: You also sell life-size basketballs, footballs, and soccer balls made of chocolate. Who is buying these things?

Redding: A lot of corporations buy that stuff. We'll make anything to match whatever promotion you're doing. My dad won't say no to anything. We can pretty much make anything out of chocolate.

NT: Anything?

Redding: Well, things with angles are hard to do. But we're Granny's; we're not going to make Penis Pops or any of that stuff. We did something called X-Rated Chocolate once, and it was three chocolate X's in a brown paper bag. And we do Twin Kisses, which is two big chocolate kisses that we dress up in a frilly bikini top. We sell a lot of those to women who are getting breast augmentations.

NT: The perfect gift!

Redding: It's our booby prize.

NT: But what if I wanted you to make me a 40-foot chocolate dildo, or a candy bar shaped like a human turd?

Redding: I would do a human turd. That's bad, but it's funny. A 40-foot dildo might be fun to do, too, because it's so outlandish. But I don't think we want to be known for that [kind of work]. And I wouldn't subject my ladies to molding anything like that. Although we do sell chocolate handcuffs.

NT: Chocolate handcuffs?

Redding: Yeah. We sell a lot of them. We sold 16,000 of them to a grocery store chain in Florida. They're tastefully done. They say "Prisoner of Love" on the front. Hilarious. I was going to start a line called Pop-a-Chubby, little chocolate penises, and sell them to sex shops all over the country. But they're already being done [by another company], and they're using crappy chocolate with paraffin. They're just gag gifts; people want them for the gag, not for the quality of the chocolate. And my parents wouldn't have gone for it, anyway.

NT: I'm guessing you've seen the Willy Wonka movie?

Redding: Yeah. It wasn't dark enough.

NT: Is that a chocolate joke?

Redding: No. I mean it was too Hollywood. Too happy. I think this came out in order to sell chocolate. Johnny Depp is definitely impersonating Michael Jackson, though. Chocolate guys aren't normally like that.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela