Hall of Fame fudge | The Sweet Shoppe, Hodgenville
“It was just a hobby,” Patrick Durham says, remembering the encouragement that helped launch his fudge-making business. “It would still be a hobby today if it wasn’t for my wife.”
Twenty years later, The Sweet Shoppe & Dessert Café is an award-winning family business on the town square in Hodgenville, beloved by locals, out-of-town tourists and more than 25 wholesale customers across Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. The shop is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed during the month of January.
The Sweet Shoppe is a Hall of Fame inductee in Kentucky Living’s Best in Kentucky awards, winning Best Sweet Spot for the last five years and Best Made-in-Kentucky Product (fudge) for the last three. Fudge-dipped strawberries are a best-seller, but customers also love fudge flavors like Tiger Butter (chocolate and peanut butter) and Maria’s Wedding Cake (raspberry-lemon), as well as pies, cookies, hot chocolate and hot cider, hand-dipped milkshakes and more.
The Sweet Shoppe is truly a family business—Patrick and Paula’s children, Maria and Forrest, both helped out in the shop growing up. Forrest has now taken over management of the shop, enabling Patrick to focus on the wholesale, shows and festivals. Patrick says the shop owes its existence to family support and encouragement, as well.
Before starting The Sweet Shoppe, Patrick worked nights as a factory supervisor in Elizabethtown, making fudge on the side for his sister-in-law’s business. “I was just tired of what I was doing,” he says. Paula, who owned and operated two childcare centers and grew up in a business-minded family, encouraged him to take the leap.
“It’s their spirit of entrepreneurship that got us where we are today,” Patrick says.
Involvement and encouragement aren’t the only family connections. Patrick learned to cook by watching and working alongside his mother, Anna Mae Durham, who was head nutritionist at LaRue County schools for more than 30 years. Fudge was one of his mom’s holiday specialties, and The Sweet Shoppe still uses her method today.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Patrick already has his eye on the next project. Currently, the fudge is made in an off-site kitchen, and the Hodgenville shop is retail-only. Within the next year, he hopes to open another location, in addition to the original Hodgenville site, that will serve as both production and retail space. The property, which is already purchased, will be served by Nolin RECC.
The Sweet Shoppe & Dessert Café is located at 100 South Lincoln Boulevard in Hodgenville.