Freshly made Calico fudge outsells other’s pre-made wholesale fudge

How a retailer off the beaten track makes “the best fudge in the world”

Freshly made Calico fudge outsells other’s pre-made wholesale fudge

Before I made my own fudge, I bought from a wholesaler. The fudge was grainy and gritty and I probably sold about 180 pounds during my best year. The first year I was with Calico, making my own fudge, we sold a little over 2,000 pounds. That’s quite a difference!

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I live on Drummond Island, which is north and east of Mackinac -- off the eastern tip of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. So, people who come to see us have to go through Mackinac, over the Mackinac Bridge and go another 60 miles to get to Drummond Island, and that includes a ferry ride. We, on Drummond Island, are truly off the beaten path.

Before I made my own fudge, I bought from a wholesaler. The fudge was grainy and gritty and I probably sold about 180 pounds during my best year. The first year I was with Calico, making my own fudge, we sold a little over 2,000 pounds. That’s quite a difference!

We have a lot of summer residents on Drummond Island. When they have visitors, they take trips to Mackinac Island or Mackinac City. Reports have come back to me that our fudge is outstanding compared to fudge bought in Mackinac City -- which is known for fudge. There’s a dentist in the Detroit area who buys 50 1 ½ lb. boxes to give to clients.

A guy came into the store and said, “I thought you need to know this. I pulled up to a gas station in Mackinac City and was filling up. I heard two guys talking at the pumps. One guys says, ‘I’m in Mackinac City, so where’s the best place to buy fudge?’ And the other guy looks at him and says, ‘I don’t know about Mackinac City, but there’s a guy named Mike up on Drummond Island who makes the best fudge in the world.’ That was such a great endorsement.

We sample 99.7 % of the people who come in to the store. 100% of those sampled will buy fudge. Many of these people come out of our restaurant and have already eaten. They’re full and I still get them. Just get fudge in their mouths and they’ll buy. I’m the only person who makes the fudge.

We invented a fudge flavor called Drummond Island Puddingstone Fudge. Puddingstones are indigenous to this area. We are on the western part of what they call the Cambrian Shield, which is the oldest mountain range known to man. Puddingstones are dark red and light red jasper with quartz all rolled together. It kind of looks like grey rock with red and dark chunks in it. We made a fudge that resembles Puddingstones.

Probably the biggest mistake I ever made in business was not making my own fudge sooner. I wish I started with Calico when I opened my business in 1988.

Gourmet Galley Marketplace
Mike Helfand

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