PEZ smuggler's remarkable story featured in new documentary

The film is about Steve Glew, who made millions smuggling PEZ dispensers.

October 21, 2022, 2:37 PM

On the list of strange ways to make money is a career path that's hard to make up: a PEZ smuggler.

PEZ, the small candy tablets that are loaded into colorful dispensers, have collectors who will pay very high prices for rare pieces. And Steve Glew was happy to step in to provide the supply.

A new documentary, "The Pez Outlaw," chronicles the story of Glew, a man from a small town in Michigan who made millions of dollars smuggling rare PEZ candy dispensers from Eastern Europe to the United States.

"In 11 years, I earned $4.5 million," Glew told ABC News Prime's Linsey Davis. He recalled one single shipment of PEZ dispensers worth $500,000.

Glew would acquire PEZ dispensers directly from the European factory where they were made and then sell them to collectors in the United States; in some cases, for thousands of dollars each.

PHOTO: A still from the film 'The Pez Outlaw.'
A still from the film 'The Pez Outlaw.'
Sidetilt Films

The documentary has elaborately restaged incidents from Glew's career as a so-called PEZ outlaw in the 1990s, including encounters with the police and ultimately someone called the "Pezident," the head of U.S. distribution for the PEZ corporation, who eventually took Glew out of business.

When asked if he knew what he was doing could get him into trouble, he told ABC News, "Yes, absolutely. But I didn't think about it."

Amy Bandlien Storkel, one of the film's directors, told ABC News her team first heard about the "Pez outlaw" from news articles and eventually found Glew's blog, which he has been keeping for the past 20 years.

"Our reaction was it all sounded a little bit too crazy to be true," she said. They decided to get on a plane and fly to Michigan to meet Glew and his wife.

At that point, she said, "We just knew that this was an amazing story."

The film also covers more personal aspects of Glew's life, including his financial struggles and his mental health.

Glew, who participated in the making of the film and plays himself in the dramatic reenactments, said he was "really happy" that the issue of mental health made it into the film's final cut.

"People need to talk more about what they're going through," he said, adding, "I try to teach people to talk. Not to lock it up, not to hide."

Storkel told ABC News, "'The Pez Outlaw' is the kind of film "the world needs right now."

"This [film] will make you feel hopeful and inspired," she said.