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  1. Business

By popular demand, Fudge Factory USA relocates to Spring Hill

SPRING HILL — Whatever your hankering for sweets, Fudge Factory USA probably offers the indulgence to fulfill it. And, if you'd rather stir up your own, the shop has the goods to do that, too.

Al and Connie Madden, each with decades of kitchen experience, relocated their confectionery early this month to expanded quarters along Commercial Way after a considerable stint at USA Fleamarket in Port Richey.

The sweet shop's 45 flavors of fudge, tempting hand-dipped chocolates and 24 varieties of Hershey's ice cream, along with soft-serve yogurt, gelato, homemade cookies and brownies, were attracting 80 percent of their customers from Spring Hill and Brooksville.

"They asked us to come here," Al Madden said.

The expansion into 2,800 square feet enables the couple to concoct their treats in a spanking new commercial kitchen, display the outcomes in a bright showroom with a four-table seating area and build popular themed gift baskets at a generous work counter bedecked in ribbons and wraps.

Fudge, $12.99 a pound, remains the No. 1 seller.

"It's not grainy or sugary. Ours is made with cream and butter, and it's not real sweet. The recipe is nearly foolproof," Madden insisted, showing off his $800 stainless steel melting-mixing pot.

Ingredients and 672 fudge recipes are provided by a New Jersey wholesaler. In a rotation of recipes with 45 flavors stirred up at any one time, Peanut Butter Explosion remains local customers' top pick. The decadence in three layers is sprinkled over with peanut butter and chocolate morsels.

On a recent day, the favorite shared show space with fudges labeled Reese's Pieces, Amaretto Chocolate Swirl, Dreamsicle, Watermelon, Caramel Coconut Delight, Mint Chocolate and others, along with several sugar-free varieties.

Among dipped chocolates, the couple turns out a dessert-sized whopper, a $3.98 three-layer Oreo, along with reasonably priced double chocolate peppermint patties, pecan topped marshmallows, vanilla caramels, turtles, chocolate almond bark and several chocolate chunks, including white chocolate.

Yet, the most popular chocolates are branded Joyva, of New York fame.

"New Yorkers say they can't find them anywhere else (locally)," Madden said.

Raspberry rings, marshmallow twists and cherry marshmallow carry the name.

"We can make them," he noted, "but if it's not Joyva in front of it, they don't want it."

Beyond the shop's stars, shelf after shelf hold old-fashioned bulk candies, old-time candy bars, even boxes of sweets labeled in decades of their popularity, 1950s through the '90s.

"I like them, and my grandmother does, too," said clerk Danielle Barnason, 17. Her grandmother is 73.

For the home confectioner, the shop stocks 3,000 forms for shaping lollipops, hard candies, mints and such, as well as candy grade flavorings and tools.

Unique for home bakers, the shop rents for $5 novelty cake tins. Represented among 110 choices are cartoon characters, holiday themes, animal shapes and sporting paraphernalia.

The couple chose Hershey's brand for the shop's top-of-the-line ice cream. Madden imparts his own confectioner's touch with a selection of waffle cones dipped in various candy coatings and encrusted with candy bits, nuts and other enlightenments from a selection of 40 toppings.

Al Madden, 57, dates his sweet experiences to age 15 or 16, when he first worked in a bakery in his native Maine.

Connie Madden, 56, a career restaurateur and culinary experimenter, noted, "I made our (four) kids all the candy for their Easter baskets and Christmas stockings."

All those candies are now being gobbled up by an equally appreciative audience, according to glowing remarks on social media since this month's opening.

At the counter, Barnason added: "A lot of people are seeing the first ice cream/candy-fudge store and enjoy having a place so new and different from everything around here."

Contact Beth Gray at graybethn@earthlink.net.

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