An Outer Banks-Born Business Goes Big

By Molly Harrison | Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Listen To This Article

Every day all across the nation, expert candymakers at more than 20 locations of The Fudgery are busy handcrafting fudge the old-fashioned way – cooking extra-fine sugar, half and half, butter, fine chocolate and salt in huge copper kettles then hand-turning the fudge on an 800 lb. slab of Georgia marble to quickly extract the heat. When the fudge is done, they ring a big brass bell, and customers come running for a slice of perfectly smooth and creamy fudge in flavors like Extraordinary Chocolate, Sea Salt Chocolate Caramel, Cookies & Cream, Chocolate Peanut Butter and more.

Since 1980 The Fudgery has been making every batch by hand right in front of the customers. It’s a labor-intensive process, but the melt-in-your-mouth results are worth it.

“There’s a real craft to making a perfect loaf of fudge,” says Ace Marshall, president of The Fudgery. “We don’t take any shortcuts and we use only the best ingredients. The results are a smooth and creamy, superior fudge.”

The confectionery legend that is The Fudgery started right here on the Outer Banks in 1980. A.C. Marshall, Ace’s father, opened his first shop on Memorial Day weekend at Sea Holly Square in Nags Head, with three marble tables, a stove, seven flavors of fudge and two employees, one of whom was 16-year-old Ace.

The fudge was delicious and very well-received, but it was A.C. who stole the show. Full of personality, the enigmatic A.C. entertained the customers while Ace labored away at the stove and marble tables. A.C. told jokes, talked about the process of fudge-making and involved the audience in a Fudge Oath, and the customers bought more fudge on the nights A.C. was entertaining. A second Nags Head location followed in the second season, and by the third season in 1982 they had a third location in Kitty Hawk. The Outer Banks stores were doing fine, but still the business was being held up by bootstraps. Between his college classes, Ace would join A.C., who had become known as Papa Fudge, on the road, loading up their truck and traveling to flea markets to sell their fudge.

The big break for The Fudgery came in 1983 when The Waterside opened in Norfolk, Virginia, with The Fudgery at the center. The aromas of fresh-cooking fudge, the ringing bell and “It’s Fudge Time” announcement, free samples and entertainment from Papa Fudge were a huge hit right from the start. Equally popular was the young opera singer they had hired to work behind the counter. She just started singing at work, and her songs would hold a crowd while the fudge was being made. They hired more talented young people, including a Norfolk State University student named Alvin Cox. An excellent singer, Cox brought in fudge songs and choreography and taught other workers how to sing and dance. The press and customers were enamored with the Singing Fudgemakers, and The Fudgery was on its way. No more flea markets.

As more cities funded downtown revitalization projects, The Fudgery was at the center of them all, hiring Singing Fudgemakers to entertain the customers. As the downtown revitalization projects ebbed and the outlet mall industry flowed in the late 1980s, The Fudgery transitioned to outlet malls, still hiring singers for their stores. Some of their young singers went on to stardom, including Dru Hill and Sisqo from the Harborplace store in Baltimore.

For the last 30 years, The Fudgery has maintained a steady 20 stores across the nation and has always stayed true to its roots on the Outer Banks. There are still three locations of The Fudgery on the Outer Banks in Corolla, Duck and Nags Head. As with every business, the pandemic caused some hiccups in business and staffing; while all the staff members might not be singers now, they are all exceptionally personable people who enjoy interacting with customers.

In addition to a wide variety of fudge flavors, The Fudgery has added other great sweet treats to the lineup, including ice cream, smoothies and fresh-squeezed lemonade. The candymakers also make pralines, turtles, dipped marshmallows, rice crispy treats and apples dipped in The Fudgery’s very own, made-from-scratch caramel recipe – handmade in the store with the same love and attention to detail as their fudge.

Nearing 90, Papa Fudge is still involved in the business he started with teenager Ace at his side. “They were hard times, but they were fun times,” Ace says as he reflects on their humble beginnings inside a small, 450-square-foot shop in Nags Head. Today this Outer Banks-born business continues to tickle taste buds and delight customers locally and nationally.

Nags Head | 3933 S. Croatan Hwy
Duck | 1171 Duck Road, Suite A1 in Scarborough Lane
Corolla | 790-M Ocean Trail, Space A in TimBuck II

About the Author Molly Harrison
Molly Harrison is managing editor at OneBoat, publisher of She moved to Nags Head in 1994 and since then has made her living writing articles and creating publications about the people, places and culture of the Outer Banks.