Marshall’s Fudge marks a century of sweetness

Outside view of Marshall's Fudge storefront
Patrick & Lori Forhoff

Patrick & Lori Forhoff

By: Shandra Martinez

For legions of longtime customers, visiting Marshall’s Fudge in Mackinaw City can be nostalgic. The aroma of the shop and taste of fudge brings back special memories of family and friends. 

Many share those memories as they buy their favorite flavor of fudge, says Lori Forhoff, who, with her husband, Patrick, now operates the business started by her grandfather. 

“We have such a following of loyal customers who say, ‘We came here when my grandparents brought me here.’ I hear those stories,” Lori said. 

This year marks a major milestone for the third-generation Northern Michigan family business. It is celebrating a century of making fudge.

Origins in 1923

Founder Jim Marshall got his start in the confection business at Mackinac Island’s first candy shop, Murdick’s, in 1923. Over the years, he perfected the art of fudge-making and during the off-season traveled to events across Michigan to share his sweet creations.

The Marshall family has deep ties to Mackinac Island, dating back to the early 1820s when Jim’s great-grandfather, William Anthony Marshall, was commissioned commander of Old Fort Mackinac. He was the Fort’s longest serving soldier. 

Jim Marshall made his own mark. He and his wife, Oradelle, along with their son Dean, opened their own candy store on Mackinac Island’s Main Street. Their store, Marshall’s Driftwood Fudge, quickly became a beloved destination for tourists and locals alike.

But it wasn’t just Jim Marshall who made Marshall’s Fudge a success. Oradelle was a true innovator who developed new and exciting flavors that are still available at Marshall’s Fudge today.

Dean Marshall making fudge

Dean Marshall

Expanding to the mainland

In 1954, Jim and his family expanded their business by opening a second store, in St. Ignace, taking fudge to the mainland. By 1962, Marshall’s Fudge had expanded to six stores around the Straits area. In 1965, Marshall’s had a store on East Central Avenue in the heart of Mackinaw City. Marshall’s Fudge – the business’ only remaining brick and mortar storefront – is still on the same street.

Dean inherited his love of fudge from his dad. When he married Jeannie, they worked together to continue building the family business. Running the fudge shop wasn’t his only job; he also was an accounting professor at Ferris State University. 

Their daughter, Lori, and her husband, Patrick, took over the business in 2007. The couple continues the family tradition of using only the freshest and most premium ingredients along with time-honored techniques that have been passed down through generations.

“We use many of those same tools. We have tables in this store that are as old as the store when they moved into it originally back in the ‘60s,” Patrick said. 

The third generation has also been innovative, adding new flavors and sugar-free fudge to the menu. It’s also easy to order their fudge online, and Marshall’s offers corporate gift giving. 

Time-tested process

Still, a visit to the shop is a treat for customers who can watch the fudge and candy being made by hand. It involves flipping and shaping the hot fudge on a marble table into loaves that are cut into half pound slices. The method makes creamy fudge. Patrick says his father-in-law taught him there are no shortcuts when it comes to following the Marshall recipe. 

“It’s pretty physical, but it’s enjoyable,” said Patrick. “You have customers who are mesmerized by the process. It’s fun because when you’re making candy, you’re talking to people. It’s not really a job.”

As a young adult, Lori didn’t see a future for herself in the family business. She headed out to sunny Southern California, where she met Patrick and had a career as an elementary school teacher. The couple returned to Michigan every year on their vacations. 

When her parents mentioned in the early ‘90s they were thinking about retiring, Lori was surprised when Patrick suggested they take over the business. They don’t regret the decision. They’ve been supported by their membership in the Michigan Retailers Association, which provides resources ranging from workers’ compensation insurance to scholarships for members’ families.

When there were stressful days, Lori remembers her mom telling her, “You just have to think to yourself, it’s just candy. Most people coming in here are really happy because they’re going to buy candy and it gives you instant happiness.” 

truffles caramel corn copy Fudge close up Marshall's fudge