The Experts in Candy

Fernandina Fantastic Fudge's chocolates are hand-dipped.

I could only think of Paula Deen when I first tasted a double chocolate cream from Fernandina’s Fantastic Fudge.

Just as the Food Network star always does, I took a giant bite and couldn’t help but roll my eyes in delight.

“Y’all, if there’s anything better than butter, this would be it,” I could picture her gushing in her slow, charming Southern drawl.

The Centre Street fudge shop is the master of candy-making.  They make their fudge the old-fashioned way, heating it in a copper kettle and spreading it out on a cool, marble slab. They hand-dip their chocolates. They make their waffle cones from scratch.

Even a toddler can tell the candy at Fantastic Fudge is a different breed than the mass-produced stuff we find in our grocery stores.

Believe it or not, my son isn’t much for sweets. He typically takes two bites of a cookie or a slice of cake, and he’s had enough. When we buy him dessert at Fantastic Fudge, he finishes it.

“I’m eating a chocolate pretzel!” he shouted to passersby one recent night. We were sitting at a table outside the fudge shop, and he just couldn’t keep his excitement to himself.

“Ummmm. This is delicious!” he bragged to another passing group. They stopped and peered into the shop’s window, taking in the sweet smell of fudge from the sidewalk. Then they made their way inside.

The sweet smell of fudge, made the old-fashioned way on cool, marble slabs, draws visitors in from the street.

The fudge shop is an institution in Fernandina. Southern Living magazine, Food TV and The Travel Channel are among those who have raved about it. But it’s all by chance that it’s even here.

According to the fudge shop’s website, owner Steve Colwell started making candy as a high school freshman in his home state of Michigan. He only ended up in Fernandina Beach because his family loved the area when they came to camp at Fort Clinch State Park.

Over 20 years ago, in 1988, Colwell began work to transform an old hardware store into his charming shop. He didn’t just hire someone else to do it: he rolled up his sleeves and joined the construction crew.

The fudge shop on the corner of Centre Street used to be a hardware store.

The result is a store like one of those “mom and pop shops” our parents always told us about, but this one isn’t going anywhere.  In fact, they’re so popular, they’ve stretched their reach beyond our community, shipping candy orders to those who aren’t lucky enough to live a short drive away.

In addition to fudge and candies, the shop offers a selection of ice creams. During our visit, I tried their current seasonal special,
pumpkin vanilla swirl ice cream with pecans. One lick, and I was making the Paula Deen face again.

One of the neatest features of the shop is its open viewing area. If you show up at the right time, you can sit on a bench and watch the master candy-makers work and shape the fudge. There is a real science to making creamy, decadent fudge. But don’t take my word for it: check out the shop’s website, where they explain their fudge-making process in detail.

If you go:

Where: 218 Centre Street, Fernandina Beach

Call: 904-277-4801

Hours: Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day; open an extra hour,
until 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays.

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