The idea of making zombie candy bunnies – and other confections equally odd and strange – came out the mind of Chad Seewald of Fort Wayne.
With his wife, Heather, he is co-owner of Sweets So Geek, a small company putting a slightly twisted spin on sweet treats. The 7-month-old business makes filled chocolates, frosted cookies and cakes with science fiction themes.
Deadly Dark Vaders are dark chocolates in the shape of the "Star Wars" villain's helmet and filled with chocolate ganache. Batman Bacon Bites take crispy bacon and peanuts and enrobe them – well, maybe en-cape them – in dark or milk chocolate in the shape of Batman's belt buckle.
Stark Cravings are chocolate Iron Man masks filled with gooey butterscotch – the only kind of scotch that won't cause superhero Tony Stark to fall off the wagon. (He is a recovering alcoholic, after all.)
Then there's the zombie collection – zombie brains, which are green-tinted white chocolate brain shapes with a bright-red cherry-cobbler filling, and zombie parts, which are chocolates in shapes befitting members of the undead who've just been hacked to pieces.
The newest offering: red-eyed zombie bunnies with rotting green flesh – perfect for baskets aimed at the male tween set for whom long-eared candy critters and cute marshmallow chicks are just so, well, 2009.
Kids, in other words, such as the Seewalds' son, Connor, 7, who serves as the company's in-house candy consultant.
"Yeah, it's ridiculous," Chad Seewald, 36, says. "He tests everything. He actually came up with the idea for our cream cheese- and red velvet cake-filled Valentine's Day heart chocolate. He had to approve the recipe, and we've had more comments from people about that being their favorite chocolate than anything we've produced."
Heather Seewald, 36, a mental health therapist, says she's a geek by conversion. Chad got her to a comic book convention and introduced her to graphic novels when she was six months pregnant with the couple's daughter, Emma, 11.
"I'd loved 'Star Wars,' but that got me hooked," she says, adding that while she doesn't dress up for conventions, Emma does, and the family's home is decorated with comic book art.
Chad, however, claims geekiness from birth.
"I've always been a geek," he says. "For me, a geek means that I really, really love certain things. I grew up reading comic books – that's how I learned to read – and I've seen 'Star Wars' countless times.
"No matter what age I am now, in my heart, I'm 12 or 14 years old."
But if that's true, Seewald is a 12-year-old with an ambitious streak.
Seewald got his culinary background working his way up from busboy at the now-closed Foxfire's restaurant in Muncie.
There, he says, he had the chance to learn from a well-seasoned French pastry chef.
"At that point, I was a sponge," Seewald says.
But as he took other jobs, he realized the restaurant life might not mesh with raising a family. So he got a degree in education and a job working for Frontier Communications while indulging in confection-making as a hobby.
After he came across some molds featuring the likeness of Hans Solo of "Star Wars" and made caramel-filled candies as Christmas presents "for all our geek friends," Heather says, the business got started.
Chad now puts in up to 70 hours a week working nights and weekends to make the candies at a commercial kitchen in Fort Wayne. During crunch times, he has the help of his wife, children and relatives.
"It's definitely a family-oriented business," Heather says.
One of the first places the company sold its handmade wares was the 2013 Appleseed Comics and Arts Convention at Grand Wayne Center.
The products also were part of a zombie brain-eating contest at last year's Fright Night in Fort Wayne and were sold at the Holly Pop event downtown at Christmastime, where sales "just exploded," Heather says.
"What makes us unique is the spin we put on things. Anyone can get the molds, but how we make it different is the fillings," she says, noting the future may hold custom-designed molds.
Heather says Chad's fertile brain has been coming up with one or two new items a month, including Dr. Who-inspired items, Hoth Chocolate spoons, superhero cookies and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, turtle candies with nuts and caramel.
The company also will make shaped cakes for birthday parties, and several couples have lately inquired about using the company's chocolates as wedding favors.
"Chad would love to do a groom's cake – maybe something from 'Star Wars,' " Heather says.
Many of the company's sales – individual candies sell from $2.50 to $4 – are from online orders from SweetsSoGeek.com. Candies also are available at Clem's Collectibles at Jefferson Pointe and GameQuest, 3631 N. Clinton St.
While the Seewalds at present have no desire to rule the candy universe, "We want to become a vendor-based business," Heather says. "We want to sell in stores, and right now we're targeting quirky boutiques, gaming shops and comic book stores."