Shop provides sweet deals in Hodgenville

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By Ron Benningfield

Having made and sold 39,000 pounds of fudge last year, Sweet Shoppe owners Pat and Paula Durham certainly have a sweet deal going on in Hodgenville.

“I make all the candy while Paula does mostly daycare (they own Kinderplay in Elizabethtown), and taking care of the business end of everything,” said Durham, 53. “Without her, I could never have done this.”

Though they sell their fudge in their shop on the square, Durham makes the 60 varieties of candy in the “fudge farm” building next to the Lincoln Jamboree about three miles south of town on Lincoln Farm Road where they originally started their business in 2002.“We have four kettles there, each that can make 40 pounds of fudge,” said Durham.

The lifelong LaRue County resident said entering the candy business fulltime was a leap of faith for he and his wife. “I had piddled in making fudge and had started selling it at Paula’s twin sister’s (Pam Roark’s) shop in Brandenburg when Paula suggested I look at wholesaling,” he recalled.

Using the commercial kitchen in the daycare they owned, Pat began his endeavor by cutting the candy into six-pound slabs and supplying a case, scales, and cutting utensils to the businesses that agreed to sell his candy.

“I told them I would deliver it and would also take back any unused candy,” he said. “My first business customer was Hurst Drugs in Bardstown, 13 years ago, and they’re still selling it, though we pre-package it now.”

Deciding to delve deeper into the business, he quit his public job and spent his days seeking new clients from places nearby to as far away as Central City.

Over the years, his customer base has grown beyond the state and even outside the country. His biggest customer is Jungle Jim’s in Cincinnati where he delivers 600 one-half pound pieces of pre-packaged candy every two weeks.“We started with them in July 2014 and in six months we wholesaled six to eight thousand pounds of candy to that location,” said Pat.

When Pat isn’t delivering candy to businesses, he’s on the road, selling at state fairs and 30 festivals.

Durham depends on his five employees to mind the shop on the square in Hodgenville. They include Nancy Parrish, Marsha and Haley Esteep, Hannah Harry, and Stewart Griffey.

The four weeks around Christmas are the shop’s busiest times and two days before Valentine’s are times when the store is filled non-stop with customers.

“It may surprise some people, but men are our biggest fudge buyers,” Pat observed.

Items additionally for sale at the shop include ice cream, homemade cookies, lemon bars, brownies, and Sugar Fashion Cakes.

Because of its location near the Lincoln Museum and statues of Abraham Lincoln, the Sweet Shoppe draws hundreds of tourists in addition to its regular local customers.

“I was surprised that so many tourists come here,” he said. The shop has a guest book signed by visitors from all the continental United States, Hawaii, Alaska, and even as far away as Turkey. He has shipped, via Internet sales (www.sweetshoppefudge.com), to places as distant as New Zealand.

“I guess it was a big gamble to go into the candy business, but we’ve been blessed not having to go into debt for any of it as the Lord has opened up opportunities along the way,” said Pat, who is a deacon at First Baptist Church in Hodgenville.

The Sweet Shoppe is located on the square in downtown Hodgenville and is open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and can be reached at 270-358-0424.