By Andrea Brown Herald Writer
LYNNWOOD — In the row of industrial storage units off Highway 99, it’s just another drab concrete cave stacked with delivery boxes.
But to Richard Lord, it’s like being a kid in a candy store.
“This is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done,” said Lord, 65, creator of Rocket Chocolate, the caffeine-infused truffles that fill all those delivery boxes.
“It gets me all charged up.”
When Lord gets to talking about his goods, the man can’t stop. It’s as if he’s had a few too many. He eats five or six a day.
Each 0.4-ounce Rocket Chocolate nugget packs as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.
The bright foil-wrapped treats go for 69 cents at gas stations, drug stores and tobacco shops. It’s often placed by the register, enticing students to grandmas to working people seeking a boost.
“It’s candy for adults,” Lord said.
Maybe so, but pity the 7-Eleven clerk who has to keep telling that to little kids captivated by the smiling cartoon rocket.
Still, there’s no legal caffeinating age.
“Up here, people let their kids drink coffee when they are 8,” Lord said.
Anyone with the money can buy a Rocket Chocolate, as well as other caffeinated treats, such as Buzz Bites, Jitterbeans, Jolt gum and Perky Jerky.
“I sell about 240,000 bars a month,” Lord said.
Not bad for the wild kid from Montana voted “Most Likely Not to Succeed” in high school.
After four years in the U.S. Navy and a few boring jobs, Lord landed in snacks. He started out selling Zingers. He was a distributor for Dolly Madison and other snack companies before launching his own.
“I was ‘Mr. Snackman.’ That was my facade. My name on the street,” he said. “I had a line of Mr. Snackman beef sticks, nuts and candy. I was going to hit it big time.”
Well, that didn’t happen. He blames bad packaging.
He came up with Rocket Chocolate in 1996.
“I knew in my mind it would work,” he said. “I came out with three flavors — mint, mocha and peanut butter — and hit the street with it. I went door-to-door to all the stores and pounded it out.”
Now he’s the Rocket Chocolate man. With his enthusiasm, you almost expect him to wear tights and a cape, not a plaid button-down shirt and baggy trousers.
He drives a PT Cruiser emblazoned with the flashy Rocket Chocolate logo.
“People point to the car,” he said. “They’ll chase me down the street to see if they can get chocolate. I give samples.
“It’s really fun to watch people get excited about something, especially the last five or six years when people haven’t been so excited. You give them a handful of chocolate, and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, look at this.’ Women really go crazy.”
Even with nine flavors, he’s yet to make a mint that isn’t chocolate.
“I have fun doing it. That’s what matters,” he said. “I like to talk to people. I like to talk. I like all the flavors. I am doctor’s nightmare. I eat too much.”
When he’s not dealing candy, he helps his wife, Pat. She owns Champions Real Estate Services in a Lynnwood strip mall, not far from the physical Rocket Chocolate headquarters. The address on the candy wrapper is Mill Creek, where Lord lives.
Lord won’t say where his chocolates are made. Most distributor sales are in Washington and Oregon, but he ships to about 40 states.
He also created Ginseng Jubilee, a cherry-chocolate truffle.
Sorry, kids, it’s another adult candy. The buzz isn’t from caffeine, though.
“I sell it to sex shops. You know, the love stores,” he said.
“Ginseng is supposed to enhance a man’s sexuality. I’ve been in the snack food business for 40 years, and ginseng was one of those things we sold in the pills and little bottles.”
Compared to Rocket Chocolate, sales are limp.
It seems people prefer caffeine to sex.
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; email@example.com
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