On July 1, Saint Cupcake owner Jami Curl opened a pint-sized store dubbed Quin in Portland, Ore.’s Union Way retail shops area. There, she put out her pride and joy, a collection of hand-made caramels, lollipops, marshmallows and gum drops.
Curl’s passion for candy goes back to her childhood, a passion she’s now realized.
As she explains, “For me, every major holiday meant a world of sweet treats: Easter baskets overflowing with chocolate bunnies and Cadbury Mini Eggs, Christmas stockings filled with foil-wrapped balls of chocolate and cherry candy canes. Birthdays with bowls of Skittles, Starbursts andHot Tamales… even my own wedding reception featured a candy table overflowing with handmade caramel apples plus seemingly endless amounts of Peanut M&M’S, gummy bears, licorice and Sweetarts. Candy has literally been with me every step of the way.”
It’s no surprise then that Curl’s products reflect those memories.
“When I made the decision to start working on my own line of confections I absolutely reached into the past to rekindle some of the feelings and emotions I’ve always had around candy,” she says. “What tastes good is really just as important to me as coming up with a candy that will either create memories or will help bring the past into the present.”
Thus, Curl describes her product lineup as confections “traditional with a twist.”
Hence, shoppers come across cola-flavored gumdrops coated in a shell of Aldersmoked sugar. Rich and creamy caramels topped with a spark of sea salt harvested on the Oregon coast. Strawberry marshmallows sold by the foot. And blackberry lollipops made with Oregon blackberries.
“We have a very small operation — a handful of candy makers and candy packagers nestled into the kitchen that my bakery operates out of,” Curl explains. “Everything we do is small batch and all of the candies we are making started with a simple idea or taste that I dreamed up or convinced myself I could figure out.
“I feel truly fortunate to be in a position where I can truly follow my heart at work.”
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?
It has to be a tie between Hot Tamales andAtomic Fireballs.
What’s the last cool thing you saw online?
It’s not something I saw exactly, but the new Jay Z /Justin Timberlake track (Holy Grail) that’s currently streaming online is pretty much the coolest thing I’ve heard in ages.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a kid my main goal was to be as close to candy, cookies and cake as possible. At 12 I got my first job in ice cream and I opened my first bakery at 30. Now at 37 I’ve got a candy business.
What issues concern you most about the confectionery industry and why?
With the automation of virtually everything I definitely fear that with each passing year we move away from the ability to truly make something with our hands —instead turning the work over to machines. I worry that there’s an entire world of forgotten candy skills out there that will never been reclaimed.
What’s the last book you read?
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Usby Michael Moss
What is your pet peeve?
Diets. People who are “cutting out sugar.” I say eat it all — just don’t eat it all day.
If given the chance to choose anyone, whom would you like to collaborate with?
I am currently working on two dream collaboration projects — both local to Portland — but if I got to pick anyone anywhere, ever? I’d say Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My dad always reminded me to only ever be in competition with myself.
What excites you most about your job?
Limitless opportunity and creativity. Plus all the candy I can eat.