AMC's breakout hit Breaking Bad, which follows a struggling high school chemistry teacher and his unlikely midlife career change to meth cook to pay for his cancer treatment, has definitely caused a tourism spike in Albuquerque, N.M., where the show's dramatic plot and actual filming take place.
Tourists visit The Candy Lady to buy teeny bags of blue rock candy that looks like the crystal meth used on the show. (In fact, she produced the actual stand-in candy that they used for the show in the early seasons.)
They take trolley tours with the ABQ Trolley Company to see locations made popular by the show, including Walter White's house, Jesse Pinkman's house, Saul Goodman's office, the Crossroads Motel and Los Pollos Hermanos, a fast-food chicken joint.
And now they can "cook" their own batch of bath salts and learn to whip up a tray of the blue rock candy, both of which look just like the real stuff. Breaking Bad fans can also indulge in other spa goodies and cooking spices inspired by the show, courtesy of Keith and Andre West-Harrison, a gay couple. Enter Bathing Bad.
You read that right. Bathing Bad makes bath salts and other spa products, as well as rock candy, in the signature Breaking Bad sky-blue color. And, yes, the salts and the candy looks a lot like the meth in the show, baggies and all.
Bathing Bad even offers a complete set, including lotion, scrub and a bar of soap in a white plastic Los Pollos Hermanos bucket -- no spoiler alert here, but those of you familiar with the series will appreciate the clever packaging. Also available are sets of Los Pollos Hermanos cooking spices. And now visitors can play along too.
The process for making the bath salts is pretty simple. First, they toss in a large size of sea salt into a small cement mixer and then add a splash of organic blue dye. If you're wondering how they make that, you might be surprised: red cabbage. It's boiled down, and then baking soda is added. Violà: organic blue dye! Once the large rock salt is well-covered with the home made blue dye, the finer salt is added, and then more blue. After that, the oil is added, two shots of a 17-oil blend formulated to stimulate and relax. Then, more mixing.
"When my eyes and nose start burning," West says, "I know it's done." And when it is, Keith dumps it into the big plastic chicken bucket, just like on the show. "This would be worth $1.3 million if it was the real thing," West teases.
People all over the world seem to dig the idea. They've already sold 1,000 pounds of salts in 19 countries and all 50 states.
Smaller batches of the salts are also cleverly packaged in small zip-top bags, just like the real deal, only this treat won't rot your brain or land you in jail. Their latest offering, just over the past few days, in fact, is a 60-minute class offering guests the chance to "cook" and bag their own batch of bath salts to take home with them, as well as learn how to make the sky-blue candy, just like the kind used on the set of Breaking Bad. West says that the photo ops alone are worth the $25 price tag.
Bathing Bad is just the newest part of what Keith and Andre do, a part that grew very naturally out of what they were already doing: manufacturing private-label products for over 300 spas and providing high-end spa services at their spa, Great Face and Body, which was named "Top Green Spa" of 2013 by DAYSPA Magazine.
So creating more product wasn't really a stretch at all for the pair. "We were really already doing it," they say. It's just that now they're doing it with a Breaking Bad twist -- except, West, says, they're more like chefs than chemists.
And if you're wondering if the network or the show producers have a problem with this spin-off, they don't. In fact, they ordered 450 bags for the wrap party.
The reason for creating Bathing Bad partially had to do with the new space they recently purchased, a 9,000-square-foot building that had good bones but not much more than that to offer. It had no water, no electricity and no gas. It had been empty for nine years. But the pair could tell it would be a perfect live/work space where they could run a day spa, produce and sell products, offer yoga and Zumba classes and, well, the rest is a surprise for now. But, suffice it to say, there's a lot more to come.
It was a big project to take on. No bank would touch it. So, West says, he asked himself, "What would Walter do?" Meth was out of the question, he jokes. "Jail time would be no good for us." So they launched Bathing Bad on a Tuesday, and by Friday the buzz had already begun. "We sold 12 bags just on Facebook before the site even opened."
They also sought out investors, who generously came forward to invest $5,000 each. In return, each investor would receive their $5,000 back plus 2 percent after five years, as well as 60 facials, which, if you get their $160 version, would run you about $9,600.
There's still a lot to be done on the property. They plan to add edible landscaping (in other words, crops instead of decorative plants) and a green roof. They also plan to add back the bees they had to remove. A local beekeeper is "bee sitting" them for now.
The little buzzers had to be vacuumed out from the building's roof so that it could be repaired. But once the repairs are done, the 100,000 bees will be back home, and Keith and Andre can expect 50 to 60 gallons of honey a year, honey that the beekeeper who is working with them says is some of the best he has ever tasted. They'll also get 100 pounds of wax from the buzzy little guys, which they plan to make into candles.
Everything they grow, as well as most of the honey produced, will be donated to The Storehouse, which sits just across the street from the new digs and provides 2 million meals and 40,000 articles of clothing per year in Albuquerque alone. "We expect to grow 800 to 1,000 pounds of food a year, plus 60 gallons of honey for them," Keith says. "One in six Albuquerque families have food insecurity."
This week is the launch of their candy line, sheets of cotton-candy-flavored rock candy that come with a hammer so that you can smash them yourself. They call it "BrBa: Break Your Own Candy."™
Made from organic ingredients, their tray rock candy is just like what's used on Breaking Bad. And you get to break it yourself, just like Breaking Bad's Jesse does after a "cook" on the show.*
And they are now working on Breaking Bad premiere party kits complete with slabs, bags and salts. Entrepreneurialism at its finest.
Now you can break bad, bite bad and bathe bad without actually being bad.
*WARNING: Breaking candy without proper eye protection may result in blindness or other serious injury. Keep candy "meth" slab in the bag when breaking to reduce personal injury. Keith says, "If you hurt yourself, we will be required to call Saul!"
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