"I've always wanted to come up with something really good, and nobody else makes licorice," Waldo said.
Waldo first became acquainted with black licorice through her uncle. She made him horehound candy, a sugar-coated sweet created from the bitter medicinal plant, and referred to it as "an old man's candy." (Seydel and Waldo said their main customers belong to a generation that lacked today's endless grocery store options.)
Waldo was admittedly not a fan of licorice growing up. She recalled her late father eating the licorice she left at the bottom of her Halloween candy bag. Her father's love for licorice and her experience making the sweet for her uncle sparked an interest in making it herself.
Making licorice is a precise science, Seydel said. At a recent demonstration in her home, Waldo stirred blackstrap molasses, cane sugar and condensed milk together over a small burner. It "looks like the La Brea tar pits when it starts bubbling up," said Seydel.
At a precise moment, Waldo added in anise oil, giving the mixture that classic licorice smell. Anise has also long been used as a natural digestive aid, the Black Lick Rich label notes.
"The artistic part is watching the pot and, when it comes to the final temperature, taking it off," Seydel said. "If you're a little bit too quick it's too soft, if you're a little bit too late it's too hard."
A final touch is adding black food coloring, which she's made sure won't stain the teeth. She then poured the mixture into a pan and put it in the fridge to cool for an hour. After, she cut the solidified mixture into small pieces.
The final product is stretchy when pulled and sweeter than traditional licorice. They still sell the licorice, 20 pieces to a bag, on Saturdays at the Redwood City farmers market (8 a.m. to noon at 500 Arguello St.), where people are rediscovering an old-fashioned treat.
"It is a joy to get some of the people that haven't had any good licorice for years and years, and they'll taste it and their eyes will get big and they will say, 'My God!'" Seydel said, "When you get that kind of reaction, it's very satisfying."
For Waldo, Black Lick Rich comes out of a lifetime passion for homemade handiwork.
Since the 1970s, Waldo has made bunuelos, Mexican cakes traditionally served at Christmas time, for friends and family. She brings them to St. Anthony's of Padua in Menlo Park. She's also created leather tags with funny sayings on them for various purposes, including for sewing onto pants. By her own account, the tags were less successful — there are still boxes of leather tags hidden throughout the house.
Waldo believes that her entrepreneurial spirit fits in well with that of the Bay Area and its opportunities for artisanal work.
"Especially in Palo Alto and Menlo Park, there is so much artisan stuff," Waldo said. "It is a very artsy community. That goes under food, too."
Waldo said that after 40 years, she still loves creating and crafting items.
When asked if she had any advice for others trying to launch their own home-run enterprise, she gave a straightforward response.
"It's so easy, it really is," Waldo said. "If you've got something good, why not?"
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