Tracee Hagestrom has no trouble keeping her business afloat: She makes fudge on the stern of a 30-foot boat and displays dozens of flavors on a section of the bow. Fortunately, Tracee never has to worry about getting seasick—The Fudgeboat rests securely on dry land, in a store just off the boardwalk in Carolina Beach, N.C.
Like many enterprises that rely on seasonal visitors, The Fudgeboat does about 60 percent of its annual business between June and August. During the busy summer season, The Fudgeboat sells as much as 400 pounds of fudge a week. Its unique counter, made from a boat that was beached after a hurricane, is a popular draw. But the biggest attraction is fudge. Passersby can’t help clustering around the store’s large windows to watch the fudge being mixed, poured, cut and sampled. Tracee even installed an angled mirror above the kettle to give an “insider” view as the kettle mixes the next flavor.
The Fudgeboat’s fudge selections are mostly drawn from Calico’s extensive recipe book, but Tracee and her mother, Lou Belo, experimented to create a Snickers® flavor that’s become very popular. They layer chopped pieces of the candy bar between chocolate fudge and drizzle caramel on top. Their signature coffee toffee crunch—cappuccino swirled with toffee—was originally a mistake but quickly became customer favorite. Wildly popular new flavors include dark chocolate caramel sea salt and dark chocolate caramel toffee. And classics like chocolate and peanut butter (and a combination of the two) are perennial bestsellers.
The Fudgeboat also sells ice cream. Customers can double their pleasure with a fudge-topped scoop. Tracee adds a teaspoon of water to two ounces of fudge of the customer’s choice and then microwaves the combination for about 20 seconds. She pours the softened fudge over the ice cream, making sure that customers can see her add the warm fudge to the cold ice cream. “People are salivating as they watch!” she says.
It’s no surprise that Customers who come into The Fudgeboat for ice cream often wind up buying fudge. “We push it as a great gift to take home, and we always give tastes, so it sells itself,” Tracee says. She’s found that sampling is especially effective as people wait in line for ice cream. “If you sample more flavors, you sell more flavors,” she says.
She’s trained her staff to remind customers that the store is happy to ship fudge. She credits Calico’s materials with helping her to educate her staff on how to most effectively sample and upsell.
The Fudgeboat has had solid success with Calico signage and promotions. The store offers a half-pound of milk chocolate fudge free with a pound purchase of any flavor. During the busy summer season, the staff cuts and boxes half-pound slabs of milk chocolate fudge in advance so they’re ready to go.
Tracee is happy to continue a winning relationship with the company that provides everything from supplies to support. “You have so much help at your fingertips that it’s easy,” she says.