A Bavarian-style home catches the eye on Green Street, but the one thing that piques the interest of passersby each and every day is the sign out front: The Fudgery.
To most, it’s a mystery. Many have ventured into the building — a few each month — to satisfy their sweet tooth, only to be disappointed: There are no sweets to be had in the Gainesville shop.
That’s because on Green Street, The Fudgery only has its corporate offices, not one of its shops. In fact, the Fudgery doesn’t even have a shop in all of Georgia.
“We think Georgia has opportunities, but we look for a particular profile,” said A.C. Marshall, The Fudgery’s founder. “We’re looking for a resort or business destination … and Gainesville does not fit the profile we think our concept requires.”
The only time visitors in the area can get fresh fudge is during Christmas on Green Street, when the company hands out samples for everyone who stops by.
Georgia came close to getting its own store, however. Marshall said he and Phil Niekro, former Atlanta Braves pitcher, “entered into a joint venture” to bring one to the Braves’ new stadium in Atlanta.
“We couldn’t get the right real estate, but they were anxious to have us there,” Marshall said.
His son, Ace, president of The Fudgery, said they definitely want to find a spot in the family’s home state.
“We’re always looking for that opportunity,” Ace Marshall said. “We won’t stop looking for it.”
A.C. Marshall grew up in Monroe, a straight shot south of Gainesville, and he went to school at the University of Georgia. His “orientation has been Georgia all along,” he said.
He spent 15 years in Athens and moved to Atlanta for a job. Come to find out, that company had a houseboat on Lake Lanier and A.C. Marshall spent quite a bit of time with his family on it.
“Our family spent so many happy hours on that houseboat on Lake Lanier over a period of years that I always thought the ideal home would be one where I could park my houseboat in my backyard,” A.C. Marshall said.
Before he could ever return to Gainesville, though, he had to make a trip up north to the Outer Banks
A.C. Marshall developed his sweet tooth while overseeing a property that included a fudge shop.
As he studied and learned about the different shops and methods in the country, he became convinced he could do a better job.
“I thought the concept was great, they just don’t carry it out far enough,” A.C. Marshall said. “There’s a certain magic that happens when people are watching hot fudge on a pristine marble table. They’ll ‘ohh’ and ‘ahh’ and their salivary glands go to work, but there was something missing and I thought I had that something.”
So he created the concept of The Fudgery, which uses the slogan “Fudge and Fun.” That’s because at The Fudgery, they don’t just make fudge any other way. It’s all made fresh from scratch and comes with a show.
While the fudgemakers fold all the ingredients together and form the log of fudge as it cools, they sing and encourage the audience to ask questions, cheer and sing along.
“We are entertainers, we are singers,” Ace Marshall said. “We’re selling fun, we’re selling a good time, we’re selling memories and it’s important to understand we make great fudge, too.”
After the concept was perfected in 1980 at its first shop in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, two more opened in the Outer Banks.
It wasn’t until 1983 when A.C. Marshall met with Jim Rouse, who had a property called Waterside District in Norfolk, Virginia, that the company really took off.
“It was that store that became the springboard that opened doors for us to basically open up all over the country,” Ace Marshall said.
Within months of each other, The Fudgery opened shops in Baltimore, Toledo, New Orleans, Miami, St. Louis and Detroit.
“All of these happened almost in rapid-fire succession,” Ace Marshall said. “At that point, the corporate office was in an apartment in Norfolk, Virginia. We outgrew the apartment, and bought a building in downtown Norfolk, and we operated there for a couple of years before relocating the headquarters to Gainesville in 1987.”
In the end, Gainesville is where the family always wanted to be. A.C. Marshall lives in North Hall and Ace Marshall lives just about a mile from the corporate offices.
For the Marshalls, it was all about “quality of life.” They loved the weather, could make friends easily and enjoyed the access to Atlanta while not being in the heart of the city. Moving operations to Gainesville just made sense.
“It was one of the best moves we made,” A.C. Marshall said.