Life in Sebastopol is like a jar of fudge
by Stephen McDill
Published: July 5,2013
Something creamy and dreamy is stirring in rural Scott County.
Just off Mississippi 21 in Sebastopol, SpoonFudge is working on homemade desserts for local residents, online customers and anyone lucky enough to come into their tasty shop.
Co-owners Tarah Boykin and Aleisa Johnson took over the business in 2011 from a local photographer who had originally discovered a popular retail line of jarred fudge on the Internet and began buying it up as gifts for customers.
Boykin discovered SpoonFudge for herself while working in a hospital marketing department and used the jars often as gifts to physicians and staff. “When (the SpoonFudge owners) were ready to sell it we jumped all over it,” Boykin says of the brand. “We totally revamped the look and the logo. We just had a vision for it.”
Half ounce and five-ounce jars full of multi-flavored fudge line the walls of the SpoonFudge shop on a hot Saturday afternoon. Kids in a corner sip homemade fudge milkshakes and a world map fastened to the ceiling is pockmarked with pins noting their online sales.
“We couldn’t cook the fudge in our home and just decided to have a storefront,” Boykin says. “We wanted to come up with original things. We didn’t just want shelves with fudge on them.”
The store has since become a source of pride for the 273-strong population of Sebastopol (locals pronounce it: “Suh-bass-tuh-pool”) and Boykin says the downtown business and retail community recently achieved 100 percent occupancy, something that has eluded them for years.
“The little towns just get forgotten about. We’re blessed because for a long time everything was vacant,” Boykin says. “Definitely when we hung the sign, people were like well that will be here a month. How are they going to make it selling fudge in a jar?”
Working like crazy on Monday and Tuesday in the kitchen stirring batches of fudge, custom printing labels and tracking online orders from around the world (Norway, Australia and The Netherlands for example) have kept the store in the black.
“Every day there is usually a pleasant surprise,” Boykin says. “Before you know it someone is ordering 150 jars of fudge as gifts (and it is) just a big snowball.”
Boykin says she and Johnson have added fudge flavors growing the list to more than 100 flavors that are rotated out regularly to keep customers coming back. Flavors are as varied and intricate as chocolate banana, blueberry cheesecake, caramallow, butter, buttered rum, cinnamon roll and coconut lime. SpoonFudge also has more traditional fudge flavors like chocolate mint, peanut butter and white chocolate. The fudge works well in most baking recipes or atop pastries.
“We have a great relationship with our customers,” Boykin says. “They live here locally and come in and just want to see what’s new. We pull a lot from Forest, Union and Carthage.”
While the store’s unique dessert products may never replace poultry as the town’s chief industry, Boykin and Johnson work like self-described “little mad scientists” to make sure their name is out there and they keep growing their fans and flavors.
The online retail side of SpoonFudge continues to hum. Boykin and Johnson decide what to sell online based on its popularity in the store.
Boykin also plans many themed events to promote SpoonFudge products including Saturday Sundaes, Tabletop S’more Day or Manic Mondays where local businesses enter to win a chance to have a SpoonFudge party complete with samples. SpoonFudge even earned a coveted spot at the historic Canton Flea Market.
“We do as many things as we can spreading the SpoonFudge love and creating a buzz,” Boykins says. “We’re going to have to get a bigger postcard listing all of our services ideas.”
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