By ZOË WATKINS
When you’re craving a sweet snack, most people don’t think to reach for freeze-dried candy. But thanks to the new Shelbyville Snack Shop, they’re making freeze-dried everything available to everyone.
The idea was sprung by shop owner Ryan Judkins back in July.
“I wanted to involve someone from my family, and everyone turned me down, except my grandma right here,” he said, motioning to Teresa Taylor, who co-owns the shop with him. “So on July 13th, I approached her with the idea. Neither one of us had heard of freeze-dried candy.”
“I was very excited with the idea,” Taylor said with a smile.
So, they both pitched in a little money for their first two freeze-driers. By August, they started selling their products at the Goodwill in Shelbyville and online using TikTok (getting $33,000 in the first month). When sales started going out of state, they decided to get an official location. It happened that a storefront on the Shelbyville Square in front of Capri Theatre became available for them.
“I never dreamed we’d be on the Square,” said Taylor.
“It was the old record shop and it had these peg boards all the way down the wall. No professionals. We all just tore it down,” said Judkins.
Now instead of peg boards, customers will find shelves of freeze-dried candy and even funky snacks from other countries, like Spam-flavored chips from Thailand, Twix-flavored drinks, gourmet popsicles, Burger King Whopper-flavored Doritos, and – coming soon – edible tarantulas. They also plan to offer homemade candy-flavored cotton candy in the upcoming weeks.
They even have an Xbox set up if you’d like to play Fortnite while chowing down on freeze-dried pickles. Judkins said he hopes to expand the store with more games and activities, making it a true community hub.
“We’re just doing a community thing, making it fun so that people can enjoy being here,” said Taylor.
Most people have tried the famous astronaut ice cream. But the Shelbyville Snack Shop offers everything from freeze-dried Skittles (their best-seller), saltwater taffy, Fruit Roll-Ups, cakes, fudge, caramels, and their homemade peanut brittle (which Taylor’s daughter makes herself).
Freeze-drying – which is also called lyophilization – is where water, in the form of ice under low pressure, is removed from a material by turning from a solid state to a gas state, according to an article from the National Library of Medicine.
The result? Candies become light and airy – almost a combination of popcorn and cotton candy. On the other hand, sweets like cakes and oatmeal cream pies become crunchy.
As a retired registered nurse, Taylor said there are even benefits to eating candy in its freeze-dried version. For example, candies that are normally hard or sticky are difficult for people with dentures to consume.
But freeze-dried…“You bite it off and it will almost melt in your mouth, but you’ve still got the flavor,” said Taylor.
Plus, candies like Milk Duds or caramels nearly triple in size, making it feel like you’re eating more.
“It’s like it’s an instant sugar rush and your endorphins just start shooting off,” said Taylor.
And don’t worry, they also offer sugar versions of some of the candies in case you’re watching your waist this holiday season.
For Taylor and Judkins, there was a lot of trial and error with what learning does well in a freeze-drier.
“It was quite a bit at first, trying to figure out what temperatures would work with what and what would be a failure,” said Taylor.
But that’s part of the fun in order to get all different kinds of snacks that have a shelf life of months and even years.
More than anything, Judkins and Taylor emphasized the family aspect of the business.
“She’s my adoptive mom’s mom so we’re not literally blood but you can’t tell us apart. You can’t tell the bond apart,” said Judkins.
“The best part of the whole thing is we have grown so much closer,” said Taylor as she gives her grandson a side-hug squeeze. “That’s something I never dreamed is we would have this much in common.”
They officially opened at their location on Oct. 28. And so far, they’ve gotten overwhelming community support.
“Since opening this place, the locals have taken care of us so well. Local is what’s keeping us afloat,” said Judkins.
With their bright-pink store front, the Shelbyville Snack Shop isn’t hard to miss. Located across from the Capri Movie theatre, feel free to stop by and grab your favorite – or new – snack before catching a movie. Or give friends and family a unique holiday gift.
The Snack Shop is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and then 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Right now, they have a special going on where you can get six of anything for $25