Mackinac Island's Murdick's Fudge honors 125 years
Monday, September 3, 2012
MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) — It's just about impossible to visit Mackinac Island without getting a taste of the town's famous fudge.
The sweet smell of chocolate emanates from quaint shops dotting the downtown of the historic island in the straits of Mackinac.
There are many different companies selling the confection, but it all started with Murdick's Candy Kitchen in 1887.
The company, now known as Murdick's Fudge, recently celebrated its 125th anniversary with free slices of fudge to visitors at its three stores on the island as well as single locations in Mackinaw City and St. Ignace.
"People seem to be pretty excited," said co-owner Bob Benser.
The shop has a storied history that actually got its start thanks to the Grand Hotel.
Originally sail makers, the Murdick family went to Mackinac Island in 1887 to build awnings for the Grand Hotel, which also is celebrating its 125th anniversary this summer.
Henry and Sara Murdick, along with their son Rome, opened the island's first fudge shop that year using family recipes originally brought over from Germany.
The shop went through some rough patches — it had to halt production due to sugar rations during World War I, and then struggled through the Great Depression, eventually selling the family business to candy maker Harold May in 1940. (That company is now known as May's Candy Shop.)
Henry Murdick's great-grandson, Jerome Murdick, opened a restaurant on the island in the 1940s and in 1956 converted it to a candy shop, Murdick's Candy Kitchen.
Fellow Mackinac Island business owner Bob Benser Sr. became involved in the shop and purchased the business in 1969. Now 83, Benser is still involved in Murdick's Fudge. His son, Bob Benser, is co-owner.
Bob Benser said Murdick's was the first shop to use a marble slab to make the fudge, a process that customers and passerby can watch in the front of the shop.
Murdick's offers 18 flavors of fudge, from butter pecan to Traverse City Black Cherry.
Benser's favorite is double chocolate.
"I have a piece every single day, warm off the table every day," he said.
The shop also sells peanut, cashew and pecan brittles and other treats.
The company has eight locations, including three on Martha's Vineyard. Those locations stemmed from Bob Benser Sr.'s friend who wanted something to do during the summers.
Other Northern Michigan fudge shops bear the Murdick name, such as Doug Murdick's Fudge, Murdick's Fudge Shoppe and Celeste Murdick's Fudge & Candy Kitchen. They all stem from the same Murdick family but separately owned companies.