MURRIETA, CA — Renée Zellweger surprised the staff of Famous PUDN On Mother’s Day, giving the store owners a real treat.
Business was booming on Sunday, according to store owner EJ Smith III. Moms were lined up to get their free roses and pick up their gourmet pudding. The Murrieta Famous PUDN store, open from noon to 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday at 24520 Village Walk Place Unit F, has become a local family favorite.
“I was head-down and busy,” Smith told Patch. His staff of “pudding professionals” were serving up the flavored treats as fast as they could make them. Then, the room set to buzzing.
Renée Zellweger was in line.
“I asked her if she didn’t want to order right away or have me bring something to her, but she just smiled and said she’d wait in line like everyone else,” Smith said with a laugh.
Zellweger, in town visiting friends, was told to stop by and give the amazing cooked treat a try, Smith said.
She ordered three original PUDN cups and one strawberry cheesecake – which we consider excellent choices.
“She was so down to earth,” he said of the actress. “Her voice was so sweet, and when she talks, you want to listen.” She also took pictures with the staff before heading on her way. “She loved our PUDN,” he said. “I was so excited. It was our first star sighting since we’ve opened.”
Right now, the pudding professionals at Famous PUDN are preparing for the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival, along with filling accounts at area restaurants and wineries.
When you walk inside, the aroma of baked pudding wafts in vanilla goodness as customers line up at the counter. Wait just one minute for a classic PUDN, and two minutes for special orders, he says. Feel free to load on as many toppings as you want, and stay awhile to enjoy it inside the cozy open space.
“The shop idea was my retirement,” he said. “My million-dollar baby. But once the idea caught fire again, we just kept going.”
Born and raised in Gardena, Smith started making homemade PUDN in 2004, based on his mother’s family recipe. There are only five ingredients in his base recipe, and the delicious baked dessert is Kosher Certified. “We were blessed by a real Rabbi,” he said.
He set up shop in a former Long Beach deli and word got out quickly.
“I had lines around the street some days,” he said. Even the mayor of Long Beach proclaimed that they were “putting smiles on people’s faces” with a delicious dessert that everyone can relate to, regardless of family history or background. On track to do big business, appearing on television studio sets, MTV award greenrooms and more, his wife grew ill and needed surgery. Life took them away from California for several years.
It wasn’t until 2015 that they moved to Temecula and during the pandemic decided that a family business may be just the way to both work with and leave a legacy for his son, EJ Smith IV.
Together, the Smith family came up with the mission statement and plan for the shop.
“My son worked out that PUDN stands for PUDN Unifies Diversity Nationwide,” he said. They also still strive to carry on the tradition of putting smiles on people’s faces every day, with the traditional banana pudding to the elaborate flavors and toppings each guest can build themselves.
“I coached him in football, and now I’m coaching him in business,” he said. “We’re working together and it feels good to be closer than ever, working together.”
Learn more about Famous PUDN or stop by for a taste you’ll soon be craving.
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