Picture the music video for Katy Perry’s 2010 summer hit “California Girls:” screaming neon colors, swirling rainbow lollipops, giant ice cream dripping with strawberry syrup and pink cotton candy clouds. Turns out, Durham-based cotton candy shop Wonderpuff has made this sugar-filled fantasy come to life. Wonderpuff is an all-organic, vegan cotton candy shop based in Durham. Crafted by delicate threads of organic flavored sugar, each ingredient coalesces into a beautifully swirled cotton candy.
A safe space for candy lovers who seek to escape the green world of veggies, the company’s exuberance originates from its co-founders, husband-and-wife team, Jackie and Rem Morin. I talked to Jackie to get the inside scoop on how she satisfies Durham’s sugar addiction. Her motto is straight from the wise words of Urban Dictionary: YOLO!
“Dude, I’m over thirty and this is the way I want to die — by eating sugar,” Morin said.
Jackie Morin grew up in Miami, Fla., where “vanity reigns” and people strut the streets of Collins Avenue in tiny bikinis. Morin recalls that pressure for women to look a certain way meant desserts were often frowned upon.
Although food is an important part of Miami culture, Mornin mentions how there is no food community uniting the citizens in their love of eating. Life in the “Magic City” isolates food lovers and conceals what delicacies they enjoy consuming.
“I’m all about the sweet tooth,” Morin said, laughing about how she wants Wonderpuff to be a community where eating sugar is celebrated. “I want to feed [people’s] sugar addiction in a healthy way and encourage everyone to enjoy their sweet tooth.”
Morin describes the importance of taste as well as Wonderpuff’s image. Combing through Wonderpuff’s Instagram feed, an aesthetic pulled straight off of “That ‘70s Show”, you will see girls roller skating down the streets in sparkly rollerblades smiling as they satisfy their sweet tooth with Wonderpuff cotton candy.
Morin’s flavors are inspired by the bubblegum-pop aesthetic and vibrancy of Ariana Grande and Doja Cat.
“I want customers to get the taste of prettiness [when eating Ariana Grande and Doja Cat inspired flavors],” Morin said. “I love to feel good and that’s makeup for me. “I want my cotton candy to be everyone’s makeup.”
Lavender, Champagne and Rose, flavors that soothe the senses, encapsulate the gorgeous riffs of Ariana Grande’s music that will inspire you to belt in the shower. I had the pleasure of trying the Rose flavor. Decorated with sprinkles and sparkles, the sophisticated flavor danced in my mouth leaving me with “no tears left to cry.” Each bite delicately landed on my tongue exuding a flavor similar to that of a rose Turkish delight. Other flavors such as Bubblegum, Raspberry Mojito and Blueberry Waffles radiate a fresh flirtiness inviting you to dance to Doja Cat’s latest hit. Blueberry Waffles transported me to my middle school years of sneaking off to 7-Eleven for a blueberry Slurpee; lightly tinted cotton candy transforms into a neon blue raspberry slushie and a clear container morphs into a green, blue and yellow-swirled Big Gulp cup.
When ordering a customized Wonderpuff cotton candy container, customers can also select from flavors that will fly you to a Caribbean beach while you relax on a blue and white lounge chair, sip from a coconut, embrace the sunglasses sliding down your nose and listen to the waves crash against the shore.
Originally from the Caribbean Islands, Morin did not want her heritage to dissipate when she moved to the Triangle, so she made sure to incorporate tropical flavors into the brand of Wonderpuff, such as Grilled Watermelon, Pineapple Coconut and Mango.
Even in ways beyond their unique flavors, Wonderpuff is anything but a typical sugar factory — in Morin’s eyes, it’s a movement.
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“Wonderpuff is women’s liberation. Black liberation," Morin said. “As a Black woman who grew up Muslim, I was told and conditioned — and conditioned myself — [to think] that I am crazy for loving things or wanting to do certain things. But I am not crazy.” Morin said.
She fought her own mental health battles when opening Wonderpuff, doubting her choice to open her own store, that she was dreaming too big. Although Morin was able to fight this perpetual self-doubt and allow her desires to reign supreme, it was not an easy mountain to climb.
When Wonderpuff was founded, Morin was in “a hole of depression and anxiety.” The world outside of Wonderpuff was not exuberantly decorated with sparkles and rainbows but stained with hateful crimes: the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the religious hate crime against three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, and many more tragedies.
“Racism was growing and brewing. I was very triggered, and it took me down a dark path. My husband told me it was time that we start Wonderpuff.” Morin said. “Wonderpuff saved my life and mental health.”
Through Wonderpuff, Morin was able to find her voice again and her love for life that had been slowly dwindling away.
“We all have our role to play,” Morin said. “I am not on the frontline or out there every day with our people. What is something [I can do] that can amplify Black women, Indigenous women, women in general and humans everywhere? Wonderpuff is definitely that.”
In a world blanketed with bleakness, it’s the little things in life, like a deliciously spun fabric of sugary goodness, that can get us through the day. Wonderpuff enriches a world of dreamers who love to fantasize about the playful goodness in life. We could all use more opportunities to smile right now, and Wonderpuff’s sugary treats are here to help with the cold weather, finals-season doldrums.
Currently, the best way to indulge in Wonderpuff’s offerings is through their website. According to Morin, Wonderpuff’s storefront was originally supposed to open in March, but due to COVID-19, the launch got pushed back.
“It’s as if this year got deleted, but time continues to move on,” Morin said.
In order to open the storefront, Morin needed the help of her community. The company is currently running a Kickstarter in hopes of opening a storefront location at Boxyard RTP. To get the word out about the Kickstarter, Morin promoted her business through social media as she could not afford to publicize in the more traditional paid advertising outlets.
“I would post two to three times a day for eight days straight,” Morin said.
Clearly, the strategy worked — Wonderpuff’s Kickstarter broke through the cotton candy clouds; with a goal of $20,000, Morin has already received $21,029 to open the Wonderpuff storefront.
Whether it is for a birthday, special occasion or just a cotton candy craving, Wonderpuff’s product will make you feel like there is something to celebrate. So put on your rollerblades and skate on a sugar-filled, neon colored, sparkle-dusted journey.
Maddie Menkes is a Trinity first-year. Her column "Food for Thought" runs bi-weekly and focuses on the culinary experiences of college students.