Poorboy Candy founder Kevin Halgrimson started his Champlin-based caramel business earlier this year with a bit of a chip on his shoulder — the company’s name refers to the struggles that small businesses face when they start up, when doing even simple things seems to involve a blizzard of regulations and expenses.
“Buying a [food-safe, state-approved] spatula cost us $15,” says Halgrimson with a touch of amused annoyance. After working with founding partner Mike LaPoint to clear the various hurdles involved in getting Poorboy up and running, Halgrimson (who has a day job as a commercial photographer) set his sights on making his product pop in the marketplace.
Caramels can easily go wrong one of two ways: by being corn syrup-forward and lacking any dairy creaminess and depth, or by being so tough as to be mostly inedible. Poorboy caramels pass both checks with flying colors — although not corn syrup-free, the use of Kemps heavy cream gives them a mellow creaminess, and their texture is both solid enough to offer a satisfying chew and soft enough to avoid destroying fillings.
Poorboy’s prices are competitive with other local upscale caramels (ranging from $8 a quarter pound for classic up to $8.75 a quarter pound for turtle pecan), and at the moment the company’s main challenge is gaining exposure in a big, crowded market and carving out retail space.
At present, the company offers five flavors of small-batch, handmade caramels: Classic, Fleur de Sel, Turtle Pecan, Chocolate Infused, and Espresso Infused. The three flavors we sampled were all strong in their own distinctive ways.
The Poorboy Classic caramel is exactly that — a buttery, rich, deeply flavored treat that is balanced on all fronts.
Fleur de Sel (above, top left) counterpoises sweet, soft caramel with a gentle salt kick. The sea salt is delicate in texture and melts in your mouth — it’s not hard, crystalline pretzel salt, and the mildness of its flavor makes it an accent for (rather than a hard contrast to) the caramel’s buttery sweetness.
Most notable was the Turtle Pecan variety (above, bottom right). The pecans are evenly distributed, which means every bite has a crunchy, nutty texture, and the subtle cocoa kick of the chocolate caramel atop the pecan classic caramel is a nice supporting flavor.