It would be considered cool to own a PEZ dispenser in the 90s, and Netflix’s ‘The Pez Outlaw’ explores the same through the experiences of Steve Glew. The Michigan native made a fortune dealing in quirky candy dispensers, tactfully using a loophole in the rules to his benefit. Since Steve’s never-seen-before story has been explored in the documentary, he has returned to the limelight and likely received numerous career growth offers. Naturally, the public must be eager to know about his career and accumulated wealth over the years. Well, here’s what we found about the same!
How Did Steve Glew Earn His Money?
Steve Glew had a difficult childhood as his family faced poverty, limiting his resources and chances of growth. Besides, the DeWitt, Michigan, native struggled with alcohol and drug abuse for several years as a teenager, leading him to find a steady job much later in life. While not much is known of his initial career, he worked as a machine operator in the 90s and made some extra money with an interesting side business.
Steve rummaged through trash at a recycling plant and picked up cereal boxes. He would then cut out the coupons printed on the boxes and collect the toys given out by the cereal companies. Gradually, Steve hoarded thousands of such toys, which he would then sell to collectors and at local fairs. In 1992, he found a man selling PEZ dispensers, making a considerable profit. Intrigued by the same, Steve discovered that he could source them from a Slovenian warehouse.
Thus, in 1994, Steve used $4,000 of his savings and traveled to Ljubljana, Slovenia, where he bribed security guards and border patrol to access the warehouse. He would then smuggle back PEZ dispensers in bulk to the US and sell them to collectors and at PEZ conventions. This small investment drew vast profits over the next eleven years, as Steve would travel almost every month to Eastern Europe with $10,000 in hand and return with 10,000 PEZ dispensers.
Since the items included rare models, yet-to-be-launched prototypes, and ones discontinued in the US, they fetched Steve great prices when he sold them. PEZ Candy Inc. had not registered its trademark with US customs, enabling him to bring the products into the country legally. Nevertheless, Steve was still unauthorized to sell them, yet the company did not sue him, and he continued his operations. According to him, he would buy one dispenser for 27 cents and then sell it for $5.
Furthermore, the discontinued models, new prototypes, and factory rejects would fetch him anything between $25 to $1,000. Steve stated that he smuggled a total of 2 million PEZ dispensers into the US and earned around $4.5 million in those eleven years. In 1998 alone, he made around $750,000 and hired six staff members. Later, Steve struck a deal with a well-positioned European executive from PEZ Candy Inc. and began sourcing liquidated dispensers from a Hungarian warehouse.
Even these were a massive hit in the US market and allowed the Michigan native to upgrade his lifestyle by buying a bigger farmhouse for his family and funding his kids’ higher education. However, Steve’s European collaborator backed off when PEZ Candy Inc. started cracking down on the US black market. To continue his business, he devised a new plan: he designed 18 new prototypes of PEZ dispensers and raised $250,000 by remortgaging his home and taking a loan. Using this investment, he collaborated with a toy broker and made PEZ Candy Inc. manufacture his prototypes.
The middleman would give bulk orders for the prototypes to the company on behalf of a German candy manufacturer who wished to sell them in Taiwan. The PEZ dispensers would be rerouted to Michigan, where Steve sold them at $25 apiece. With quick sales, he turned his investment into $2.5 million. Unfortunately, things soon came crashing down for Steve when PEZ Candy Inc. replicated his prototypes and sold them at a much cheaper rate.
Though Steve tried reducing his prices, the company eventually outdid his sales, leaving him with a considerable debt amounting to $250,000. Not just that, he had several boxes full of brand-new PEZ dispensers, but not a single buyer was in sight. Around 2010, Steve began writing a blog about his life story using his alter ego, The Pez Outlaw. The following year, he put it up on eBay, offering movie and book rights for $750,000. In 2015, Playboy Magazine took notice of Steve and wrote a feature on his life, but as per him, he was not paid for it.
Following a failed movie deal with Warner Bros., Netflix contacted the Michigan resident for the documentary. Once it was officially announced, Steve designed a new candy dispenser with character heads based on his alter-ego, The Pez Outlaw. They are manufactured at a Texas-based 3D printing company and come in various funky avatars resembling Steve. Priced at $30 per piece, he hopes they would again take the market by storm.
Steve Glew’s Net Worth
Though Steve Glew amassed a lot of wealth in the initial decade of his PEZ dispenser business, the eventual losses left him with a $250,000 debt. According to reports, he spent a lot of his earnings trying to repay it and is still to pay back about half the amount. Given Steve’s hordes of unsold items, he struggled with finances for several years and returned to a minimalistic farm life with his wife. In addition, he has claimed to have charged a nominal fee for the Netflix documentary, but as it is receiving lots of acclaim and accolades, he shall likely receive parts of the royalties.
Moreover, Steve raised the prices of his new dispensers in 2022, following the documentary’s hype. Hence, it is possible that sales might increase and help him stabilize his finances gradually. Steve also mentioned that a book deal is in the cards, which may become an additional method of repaying his debts. Apart from all his sources of income, his assets include The Pez Outlaw trademark and his 20-acre farmhouse in DeWitt. Combining all these factors and his impending debt, we estimate Steve Glew’s net worth to be about $1.5 million as of writing.