Shawn Bell was having a glue crisis.
His 10-year-old daughter, Genevieve, had requested Elmer's glue for a project she wanted to do during a sleepover. He drove around for nearly three hours, trying Target, Walmart and two Wegmans stores before going home empty-handed.
"I couldn't believe it," Bell said. "Why in the world would there be no glue in these stores?"
He soon found out.
White glue is an ingredient used to make homemade slime – stretchy, gooey ooze that has exploded in popularity with kids of all ages. It's so hot in fact, that demand has created a shortage of glue, causing stores to sell out, leaving parents in the lurch and prompting Elmer's to increase production.
The craze began with online videos of bloggers and YouTubers playing with their own homemade creations. Search "slime" on YouTube and you'll find hundreds of videos. They feature slime lovers stretching their homemade slime, swirling it, poking it with their fingers, kneading it together to make crackle and popping sounds. Watchers describe the videos as "relaxing," "satisfying" and "comforting."
Retailers have been scrambling to meet consumers' voracious glue appetite.
"We have seen the demand in all of our stores," said Michele Mehaffy, a spokeswoman for Wegmans.
The grocer has finally managed to keep its supply stable, Mehaffy said. It has added other brands besides Elmer's and has begun placing much bigger orders to keep the shelves stocked.
The Office Depot store on Main Street in Clarence is making hay of the run on glue. The store has added signage pointing customers to where it can be found on shelves, and employees have done interactive slime-making demonstrations in the store to play up the trend.
Customers at the store regularly buy glue in eight-packs or by the gallon.
"I would say we run out every week," said Sydney Dunn, a store employee. But the store is getting a handle on out-of-stocks and also helps people order from their online store, she said.
The increased glue sales have been a bright spot for the struggling office supply retailer, which has been battered by competitors such as Walmart and Amazon. But the craze has been a downright windfall for Elmer's, the Atlanta-based company that makes the most popular brand of white glue.
"Elmer’s has indeed seen a surge in sales thanks to the slime craze," said Virginia Mayo, a spokeswoman for the company.
The company saw an increase in liquid glue sales in the second half of 2016, with a big spike throughout December. Elmer's retail liquid glue sales more than doubled during the holiday season. The company is planning to increase production of Elmer's White School Glue, as well as Glue-All, Glitter Glue and Clear Glue, which are also used to make slime.
The company is leveraging the trend by featuring slime-making videos on its homepage and designing new fun, safe recipes to share.
Along with glue, water and borax are the main ingredients in homemade slime. But after reports of burns caused by borax, experts are warning families to keep it out of the mix. The household cleaner, which can cause eye, nose or respiratory irritation, has a label warning parents to keep borax out of the reach of children. There's also the danger of younger children ingesting slime with borax.
Alternate recipes using cornstarch or other substitutions have also started appearing online. But some kids insist borax is a necessary ingredient to get the results they want. In that case, experts urge them not to touch their eyes while playing with slime and to wash their hands afterwards.
So what is it about slime that has the kids so obsessed?
Genevieve Bell, 10, said making slime is like doing a science experiment. She doesn't measure her ingredients and experiments with different additives to make her slime shinier, more stretchy or less sticky. She adds glitter, paint, Orbeez, even packing beads, since, she said, the best slime is crunchy and makes popping noises when you play with it. She names each slime, keeps them in special containers, and shows them off on her slime-only Instagram account.
But the best part, she said, is that slime helps her relax.
"If you're stressed out, it calms you down," Genevieve said. "It's soothing."