As an actor, Arthur Gil kept running into the same problem again and again. “Small parts,” says Gil. Small wonder, since Gil stands only 3’6″. At Christmastime, “there was a lot of elf work,” he says, and he did have a bite-size role in Mel Brooks’s Spaceballs. But Gil wanted something better.
Then, while shopping one day, he bumped into Dan Martino—easy to do, since Martino is a 6-foot 400-pounder. Before long, the two got to talking about candy, a common interest. Martino, 35, had some experience in the confectionery business, and Gil, 28, had an idea: Take some popular sweets and miniaturize them. Consider the possibilities, said Gil: BB-size jawbreakers, pea-size jelly beans, chocolate-chip cookies no bigger than a dime—just the thing for kids, dieters or sweet-toothed snackers on a small budget. Martino bit, and about 18 months later in Studio City, Calif., the World’s Smallest Candy Company was born.
Now, in only its second year, the odd couple’s firm is selling its tiny wares everywhere—in candy shops, department stores like Macy’s, even at Disneyland. With the addition of inch-long hot dogs, bite-size burritos and a growing catalog of minitreats, World’s Smallest should do $50 million in business this year, boasts Gil, who is the company’s chief product developer and co-owner with Martino and third partner Wendy Wagner.
Which is nice, because life hasn’t always been so sweet for Gil. Born in New Orleans to parents of average height (one brother is 6’1″, another 3’8″), he seldom dated and was often hampered in finding employment because of his dwarfism. He went through jobs as a waiter, radio engineer, computer operator and sometime actor before his brainstorm turned everything around. Plowing his profits back into the business, he still lives alone in a one-bedroom Pasadena apartment and drives a Toyota truck with extension pedals. But now, as the company’s primary pitchman at trade shows and conventions, he has found a way to take advantage of his size. “It’s a God-given gift,” he says happily, “so I’m going to use it.”