Fudge is a family tradition for the Heuglin family. Joey grew up making sweets with his mother in their shop in the Shell Factory; he’s now co-owner after taking over the business with his wife Micaela, who had started working in the shop in high school. Now, Gulf Coast Fudge Co. has two additional locations in Tarpon Point Marina and downtown Fort Myers, as well as a burgeoning wholesale business.
As has been the custom for decades, anyone can see how the fudge is made at the Shell Factory location. The ingredients are heated and mixed in a large copper kettle. The gooey concoction is then poured on a marble slab, where it’s whipped until near solid and then cut into thick slices.
They can make about eight 25-pound boxes of fudge a day, ranging in flavors from chocolate caramel sea salt (the most popular) to Key lime (Micaela’s favorite) to maple bacon (a more adventurous treat that’s caught on). Over the years, they’ve ventured out into other goodies, too, including from-scratch soft pretzels that are made daily.
At their three locations they have 16 staff— but only a handful are the expert fudge makers. Micaela herself gets a special role: “I get the final taste test,” she says with a laugh.
Gulf Coast sells its fudge online, and has found that helps build relationships with their snowbird customers, Micaela said. The next big step is expanding the wholesale operation. Its fudge can be found in places such as Seed to Table in Naples, and the Hueglins partnered with Wicked Dolphin distillery on Cape Coral for a chocolate rum. As the brand grows, they’d like to get their products on shelves outside of Southwest Florida, as well. “It’s a great way to expand without opening more brick-and-mortar locations,” Micaela says.