It turned out to be a less-than-ideal time to start a business.
Dr. Kandi Moller and her husband, Robert Loehr, opened Eye Candy Optical in the Uptown Gig Harbor complex about 2½ years ago. It was not long before the Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses everywhere to shut down.
When they were able to re-open, they turned to a family member for help in promoting their new business. The family member just happened to be a 135-pound Juliana pig named Gumdrop.
Gumdrop sleeps inside Eye Candy Optical, the Uptown Gig Harbor practice owned by Dr. Kandi Moller and Robert Loehr. Vince Dice
Gumdrop joined the family business as a sort of porcine marketing specialist. Her official title, per her Facebook page, is “ambassador of Eye Candy Uptown Gig Harbor.”
She comes to work with Moller and Loehr, offering a friendly grunt to clients and serving as a conversation-starter when she’s being taken on walks around Uptown or elsewhere in the Harbor.
Putting Gumdrop on the proverbial payroll was Loehr’s idea.
“I was already going around handing out business cards,” Loehr said. “I thought, why not bring Gumdrop?”
It’s a unique, and effective, promotional tactic.
“Any new business, you have to get the public to know you’re there,” Loehr said, and Gumdrop makes a heck of an ice-breaker. “It’s been fantastic.”
Gumdrop meets a new friend at the 2022 Paddlers Cup Dragon Boat races in April. Vince Dice
Of course, Gumdrop didn’t join the family just for business purposes. Moller always wanted to get a pig, as she put it, because “they’re adorable. Especially little piglets are adorable.”
Joining Gumdrop in the family home is Jellybean, a 6-month-old piglet. An animal-loving couple, Moller and Loehr also have six indoor cats, one semi-feral outdoor cat, turkeys, chickens, a goose and New Zealand white rabbits. They all live together on a 2½-acre property on the Key Peninsula.
As a Juliana, Gumdrop is technically classified as a miniature pig. People who see her on her regular jaunts around town wouldn’t necessarily think of her as miniature, though. Her breed can grow to up to 300 pounds.
Loehr and Moller said Gumdrop is a joy, but can also be a challenge.
Dr. Kandi Moller, Robert Loehr and Gumdrop outside Eye Candy Optical in the Uptown Gig Harbor shopping complex. Vince Dice
Pigs are “smart like dogs but stubborn like cats,” Moller said. “And strong like a pig.”
How smart? Her mom and dad swear that Gumdrop, with one of the cats as an accomplice, figured out how to get inside a lazy Susan cabinet at their home to get at brown sugar stored inside. Gumdrop has also managed to raid their kitchen for flour, corn starch and other items.
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“There’s never a dull moment,” Moller said. “It’s like having a perpetual 2-year-old. … When it’s quiet, you’re worried.”
Gumdrop is house-trained, but not just any litter box will do for a pig. Gumdrop’s is a kiddie pool.
She eats pig food purchased by Moller and Loehr at a farm store, but of course that’s not all. Gumdrop enjoys snacking on carrots and produce. Her favorite food is peanut butter.
Shoppers in the Uptown Gig Harbor complex meet Gumdrop the pig, along with Robert Loehr and Dr. Kandi Moller. Vince Dice
And, really, anything else she can find.
“If you leave food out anywhere, she’ll get it,” Moller said.
Wherever she goes, Gumdrop draws a crowd of people, most of whom pull out phones to take photos. That was true at last month’s Paddlers Cup, where many people took a break from watching the Dragon (Boats) to meet another fantastical creature.
On a recent sunny afternoon outside Eye Candy, almost everyone who passed by took a moment to stop and meet a pig.
Many people, upon meeting Gumdrop, remark that they’ve never petted a pig before. “One of the comments people say to me a lot is, you’ve made my day” by introducing them to Gumdrop, Loehr said.
“It’s good for me, too,” Loehr added. “I love the attention, she (Gumdrop) loves the attention, and it promotes a good cause,” which is encouraging people to get an eye exam.
Gumdrop gets a treat from Robert Loehr outside Eye Candy Optical in Uptown Gig Harbor. Vince Dice
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