ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — You’d think that the conclusion of “Breaking Bad” would be a bad break for Albuquerque. You’d be wrong.
Hooked tourists continue to inundate the city where the show was shot, wallowing in “Breaking Bad” themed tours, food, bath products, T-shirts and more. You’d never know the show about meth-cooking high school teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and his sidekick Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) ended in September.
Far from folding its “Breaking Bad” tent now that the show’s over, Albuquerque has ramped up its “Bad” offerings, and with prequel-sequel “Better Call Saul” expected to shoot in the city, too, you can expect even more promotional tie-ins to crystallize — in blue, always in blue.
If you’re suffering from “Bad” withdrawal, consider the Breaking Bad package at the Hotel Albuquerque (hotelabq.com). For rates starting at $127, the package includes your room, free Wi-Fi and a Breaking Bad gift bag containing stickers, coasters, postcards, matches, buttons, bath salts and crystal blue candy — with coupons for more. The hotel can also help you download a “Breaking Bad” app and set up tours.
“They’re selling out,” hotel marketing director Maresa Thompson says of the hotel packages, which didn’t start until the series was ending in September.
The aqua-colored rock candy in the hotel’s gift bag is from a shop called the Candy Lady (524 Romero St.) a few blocks away, where Debbie Ball also makes amazing fudge and peanut butter candy, as well as phallic-shaped candies she keeps in a separate room. She’s always been on top of candy trends.
“Trust me, I don’t make any money on this,” she says of the little blue crystals she sells in “dime bags” — tiny $1 baggies containing about a thimbleful of the product. Ball also sells various “Breaking Bad” T-shirts and runs limo tours ($75) of “Breaking Bad” locations. She’s far from ready to give up all this.
“Not at all,” she says. “We’re waiting for Saul.”
If it’s a “Breaking Bad” doughnut you’re craving, head for one of the Rebel Donut locations (2435 Wyoming Blvd. NE or 9311 Coors Blvd. NW), where the Blue Sky doughnut is a best-seller. The $1.59 cake doughnut is covered in white frosting and sprinkled with crunchy blue crystals. Addictive.
Every T-shirt shop in Albuquerque carries a version of “Breaking Bad” Heisenberg T-shirts, but the motherlode of “Bad” paraphernalia lies at Guerrilla Graphix, tucked into a shopping enclave in Old Town at 4320 Central Ave. You’ll find shirts, mugs, aprons, postcards, matches — everything short of a “Breaking Bad” baby suit (the place does have limits).
A block away at 208 San Felipe St., Albuquerque Trolley Tours (abqtrolley.com) offers a 3.5-hour BaD Tour ($65) that routinely sells out. The company had planned to shut it down in September, but it continues to roll out in the open-air trolleys, weather permitting. On days when it’s not offered, the Best of Albuquerque regular city tour ($25) goes past a few “Bad” spots, including Jesse’s house, the Crossroads Motel and the Grove, where Lydia poured her last packet of Stevia into her tea.
“Bad” fans simply must have breakfast or lunch at the Grove (600 Central Ave. SE; I’m told Aaron Paul loves the place). I was doing just that when something really did break bad right outside the window. Seven or eight police officers, crouched and with guns and stun guns drawn, followed a very large man as he moseyed — he did not run — down an alley. As he turned the corner in front of the Grove, one of the officers used his stun gun on him. And used it again. And yet again. It took seven hits to pull this massive man down. I never did find out what he did, but he won’t be doing it again for a while.
Perhaps the most defining “Breaking Bad” tie-in is the blue-crystal Bathing Bad bath salts made by Keith and André West-Harrison in a rambling 9,000-square-foot house that they recently bought at 123 Broadway Blvd. SE.
As Great Face and Body, these guys typically make private-label bath products for spas. They’ve found a new, blue niche in their Bathing Bad brand, cooking up vats of blue salt crystals with blue dye and 17 essential oils (eucalyptus is prominent) in a little cement mixer.
The demand is huge. On the day I visited, the West-Harrisons were working to fill an order for 2,000 bags to be shipped to the United Kingdom. As we were bagging the stuff — I helped — Keith West-Harrison explained that the blue dye was a problem, because everything his company makes is always 100 percent organic. But he says he found a recipe online for making blue dye with red cabbage, boiling it down with baking soda. Darn if it doesn’t work. The West-Harrisons sell an 8-ounce baggie of the blue crystals for $15.59.
One eensy problem: Sony doesn’t like it. The “Breaking Bad” production company’s consumer product arm has filed a cease and desist order against the West-Harrisons. Keith West-Harrison points out that “Bathing Bad” does not contain the words “Breaking Bad,” and their product was even given out at the cast’s wrap party. Other purveyors of Bad stuff haven’t been similarly ordered to cease.
We’ll see where this situation goes. Meanwhile, in addition to the bath salts, the West-Harrisons have been cooking up blue-crystal candy — and holding classes to teach others to make it. Yes, they’re competing with Debbie Ball. (Their Christmas card shows her head on a turtle. “Bad” fans will understand.)
If they can get Sony to see things their way, the West-Harrisons have no interest in giving up Bathing Bad production, keeping the faith that “Breaking Bad” will endure in syndication and on Netflix.
“Forty percent of the people who come in here just started watching it on Netflix,” Keith West-Harrison says. “We’re not stopping.” Good to hear. We wouldn’t want to have to shackle Jesse.