Banana pudding isn’t just a business to EJ Smith III, co-owner of Famous Pudn in Murrieta.
“It’s a family tradition,” he said. “It’s been in the family, passed down for generations.”
Smith learned pudding from his parents, and now he’s passing his knowledge on to his son, EJ Smith IV.
“I love it,” said the son, “especially because it’s my business, too. It’s a great opportunity, having your own business and having somebody to guide you through every step.”
The elder Smith has been making pudding from scratch since he was a kid in Gardena.
“When I was 12 years old it was my favorite dessert. My mom told me to get in the kitchen and make it myself because I kept bugging her to make it for me,” he said.
“I jumped on my bike. I ran down to the grocery store. I came home and tried to make it. My dad was the taste-tester. He said ‘That’s not it, son. Try again.’”
On the third try, his father said, “Son, whatever you did, don’t change a thing.”
After college, when he started building his own family in Long Beach, Smith made some banana pudding to sell at a Pop Warner fundraiser. Encouraged by its popularity, he opened a downtown shop, which he said he ran from 2005-2008.
His son said he has memories of his dad making pudding that go back to when he was 3 years old.
“I remember him packaging thousands of puddings. I was putting cookies in, too! When they were packaging, my hand was at the table trying to put some cookies in to help them.”
The elder Smith’s wife Val got ill, forcing the family to move to Arizona for treatment, and Smith entered the corporate world, working for Red Ventures, a North Carolina-based media company.
After Val was healthy again, the family returned to California in 2015, moving to Murrieta. After that, Smith said his company asked him to move to North California but his son had a different idea.
“My son asked me if I would show him how to be an entrepreneur and bring back the business.”
Smith said he was more interested in wholesale than customer service, but found an attractive vacant space in Murrieta’s Village Walk to set up shop. It had been It’s A Grind Coffeehouse and was the kind of place where customers could hang out, with armchairs and a fireplace.
The Smiths want their customers to feel special when they come in the store and to know that the pudding is made from scratch and doesn’t come out of a box.
The first thing customers see is a rack of fresh bananas and shelves filled with Nilla Wafers. If they order banana pudding, they select their own banana to go in it. Puddings are served in canning jars with pointed plastic spoons that can scoop out the contents at the bottom.
The pudding consists of milk, eggs, butter and sugar in addition to the fresh sliced bananas and Nilla Wafers that are added at the end. The elder Smith said the pudding pot get stirred 500 times.
“It’s all made with love,” the elder Smith said.
Puddings cost $8 for a single jar, $23 for a three-pack, $93 for a dozen or $35 for a family dish that serves five.
For $8.99, customers can build their own desserts with the choice of a graham cracker, cake or pie base and several toppings. Other pudding flavors include chocolate, vanilla and coconut.
In addition to the shop, Famous Pudn has partnerships with several Temecula Valley wineries, creating wine and pudding pairings.
“Our chocolate pudding is paired with their reds, and our banana pudding is paired with their sparkling wines,” the elder Smith said.
In addition, Oscar’s Brewing Company is working on a pudding beer collaboration. According to head brewer Joe Flores it’s a porter base with Nilla Wafers in the mash and pudding in the boil. It is being aged for six months in rum barrels.
The younger Smith said he would like to try out a bread pudding, a butterscotch pudding or a bread pudding.
His father remains loyal to his first love.
“Of course, the original banana pudding is my favorite,” said the elder Smith. “I’m always going to push them to the original banana pudding.”
Where: 24520 Village Walk Place, Suite F, Murrieta
Hours: Noon to 7 p.m. Thursday-Sunday.
Information: 951-304-9935, famouspudn.com