January 26, 2023 at 4:29 p.m.
Their six-year-old business has fulfilled wholesale orders for every state in the country and recently sent a shipment to Liverpool, England.
Linda Schulte said it is all because of the butter.
“I truly believe that our fudge is the best because of the quality of the dairy products that are in it,” Schulte said. “We’ve always worked with Westby (Cooperative Creamery), and they’re just great.”
The shop goes through about 350 pounds of butter every week.
Schulte takes her car to the creamery’s distribution center and parks between the semi-trucks to retrieve butter every week. She and her husband are such good ambassadors for the butter they use that the cooperative made them honorary patrons. A sign hangs in the shop to commemorate the honor.
The many varieties of fudge are handmade in small batches under the name Valley Fudge and Candy. Schulte first made fudge to sell in a craft show in 2016. Afterward, Schulte had requests from local shops who wanted to sell the fudge in their stores.
“I never intended to do anything like this,” Schulte said. “People just kept asking.”
Valley Fudge and Candy is part of the Sweet Valley Artisans store, which has products from 50 local vendors for sale.
The fudge business started in a small, rented kitchen and then moved into a space in downtown Coon Valley. The Schultes made their sweets in a 200-square-foot room. They had one fudge kettle and mostly did wholesale orders along with the fudge available at the store.
The demand for fudge started to grow, and soon Schulte was selling wholesale through an online system. They also took orders through their website.
In May 2020, the business saw its biggest growth yet. People started calling the store and complaining that the website was not working. They discovered it was due to the volume of people trying to place orders.
“Our IT person had to get us on a faster server,” Schulte said. “We couldn’t believe it.”
As the business grew, Schulte’s landlord continued to renovate the space to accommodate the growing demand. The business now operates with five fudge kettles and 14 employees.
The process of making fudge revolves around the steam kettle. It begins with a powdered milk formula that is custom made for Valley Fudge and Candy. Then, water, butter, milk solids and vanilla are added and mixed for about half an hour. Inclusions like candy and nuts are mixed in at the end.
The fudge is then poured into pans and left to set. During busy seasons, the fudge is made and shipped on the same day. During the warm summer months, fudge is packaged with ice and stored in a large freezer for 24 hours before being shipped.
“It makes a lot more expense and work, but nobody wants melted fudge,” Schulte said. “We work with FedEx and UPS on how to get it from point A to point B as fast as we can because fast is the trick.”
The Schultes try to promote the dairy industry and the role their fudge has on it every chance they can. Schulte said one of their favorite events to attend and sell fudge at is World Dairy Expo in Madison.
“We love being there as part of the dairy industry,” Schulte said. “Anytime there’s anything dairy going on we try to support it.”
They recently gave their booth location at a local craft fair to a youth dairy club and sold them fudge at wholesale prices so the club could use it as a fundraiser. They also support the club at the county fair.
While the Schultes both have experience as former dairy farmers, they are happy to continue to support the industry through the use of butter. When butter prices rose last year, they took it in stride.
“It’s expensive, but we always believe that if you don’t put high-quality ingredients in, it’s not going to taste as good,” Schulte said. “And, if I had to give extra money to anybody, I’m glad it went to the dairy farmers.”
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