Barack Obama has never looked so delicious

January 11, 2009|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Kevin.Cowherd@baltsun.com

Here is the beauty of this country: With the right gimmick, you can make some dough off anything, even when the economy stinks.

The other day, for instance, I am in Glauber's candy store in Lutherville, one of the great places in northern Baltimore County, staring at a display of milk-chocolate Barack lollipops and Obama in the Box candies.

"We can't make them fast enough," says the woman behind the counter.

I look again at these things.

There is the smiling face of the next president of the United States etched onto 1.4 ounces of mouth-watering rich, dark chocolate that sells for $4.95 a pop.

Oh, it's a beautiful thing.

The candies look so good, I want to buy one and tear into his little forehead right there, except I only have two hands and there is a pen in one and a notebook in the other.

Plus how would that look, a grown man gobbling chocolate and making whimpering sounds of pleasure at 10 in the morning, then going off with chocolate stains on his fat little fingers?

The fact is, everyone and his brother is making money off Obama merchandise these days, not just Glauber's.

You have Obama T-shirts, coffee mugs, posters, gold-trimmed "Victory Plates," bobblehead dolls, Franklin Mint coins, you name it, more than $300 million in Obama memorabilia, according to reports.

Now we have Barack Pops and Obama in the Box chocolate treats in this little store in Lutherville and they're selling like crazy, around 5,000 in the last 2 1/2 weeks.

The Barack candies are the brainchild of Bill Buppert, who is 30 years old and owns Ruxton Chocolates and its subsidiaries, Glauber's, Naron Chocolates and Mary Sue Candies.

Let me tell you something: I want to hang with this Buppert guy. Because this guy comes up with some great ideas for making money, while I make no money and have no ideas in this regard.

In a minute, I'll tell you how Buppert made a few bucks off the Ravens, too.

But back to the Obama candies and how he came up with the idea.

"I was sitting at home on a Saturday a couple weeks ago, watching TV," Buppert said, and this should surprise no one, for how often has inspiration come to many men zoned out in front of the tube, a beer in one hand and a light dusting of orange Dorito crumbs coating their shirt? "Then I thought: We gotta do something to commemorate the inauguration, to commemorate this momentous occasion."

If this were a cartoon, you would have seen a little thought balloon pop over his head, with a picture of a cash register going ca-ching.

Buppert assumed the next step would be a snap: Just find a chocolatier with a mold of Obama's face.

"But I called around and nobody had it," he said, making him realize the door to profit off Barack was wide open.

So he had a customized mold of the next president's mug built by a company in New York. Soon the Barack candies were being made by hand at a factory on Caton Avenue. And the ca-chinging was getting loud.

The fact is, Buppert had a similar brainstorm a couple of years ago when the Ravens were in the playoffs, just before they were throttled by the evil Indianapolis Colts.

That's when he came out with something called Purple Power Non-Pareils, dark-chocolate candies sprinkled with purple, black and white nonpareil seeds.

He couldn't call them Ravens Non-Pareils because he didn't have a licensing agreement with the team. And who wants to go to the slammer over something like that?

But the Purple Power Non-Pareils were a huge hit with Ravens fans from the get-go, sparking the closest thing you'll ever see to candy riots at Glauber's.

"Oh my God, they were going out the door as fast as we could bag them!" said Dianne Biddison, the store manager.

The store still sells them in a little bunch for $6.95 and they're still wildly popular.

I checked them out the other day, too, but didn't get the same charge out of them as I did with the Barack chocolates.

Oh, don't get me wrong. If you locked me in the store for a few hours, your entire stock would be wiped out, including the Purple Power Non-Pareils and whatever dropped on the floor by accident.

All I'm saying is ... the purple things didn't have the same effect on me as the Barack chocolates, which seemed to call your name the longer you hung around the place.

But, again, it was too early to start pounding chocolate.

So I left, convinced more than ever of the greatness of this country and its Bill Bupperts, who should throw an idea my way once in a while, just to be sociable.

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