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Ryba's Fudge Shops are a sweet retreat when visiting Mackinac Island

Rybas Fudge Photo courtesy Ryba's Fudge Shops

Mackinac Island is straight out of a story book. Almost entirely within a Michigan state park, there are no motorized vehicles on the 3.8-square-mile island. You’ll instantly notice this upon stepping onto its pier where bikes and horse-drawn carriages fill the parking lot.

The island is between Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas in Lake Huron. Native Americans originally named this place Michilimackinac, which loosely translates to “big turtle.” There’s a turtle of the confectionary kind, along with nearly 20 different kinds of fudge, at Ryba’s Fudge Shops on Main Street.

Ryba’s has been in business since 1936 when Harry Ryba opened his first sweet shop on the east side of Detroit, Mich. He and his son-in-law, Victor Callewaert, brought the first Ryba’s Fudge Shop to the island in 1960.

Ryba's Fudge Shop

Ryba's Fudge has been a sweet part of Michigan's Mackinac Island for 40 years. (Courtesy Ryba's Fudge Shops)

Thanks to the vintage pink and brown logo, you can’t miss Ryba’s four Main Street shops. If the aroma of cooking fudge that’s fanned onto the streets doesn’t hook you, the sight of candies being made in the storefront windows will. Terry Spengler, one of Ryba’s master fudge makers, is seen most days in those windows perfecting each 13- to 15-pound batch of fudge at a time.

He measures the ingredients in the back of the shop, which are then cooked in a large copper kettle. Once it reaches what he calls “the sweet spot” of 120 degrees, it’s dumped out on one of four Italian marble slabs.

“You can’t afford to mess up because when you’re dumping boiling hot fudge, you’ve got to bring your A-game every day,” says Spengler.

He calls out “irons,” and folks step aside to let him go to work. Irons are what keep the molten candy from rolling off the table. He moves the chocolate around the cool slabs with paddles resembling tools much like those used by drywall installers. But there’s nothing dry about this creamy delicacy.  

As the fudge finishes cooling, Spengler finishes up the last batch of the day. He sets his paddle down and notes, “a nice shine on the fudge is what I like and is achieved by not overworking the fudge.”  

The shop’s retail case displays an abundance of fudge flavors, but plain chocolate without nut is the most popular, with pecan and peanut butter following close behind. Each serving is carefully curated into pink boxes.

Ryba’s also makes an array of sweet treats, such as brittle, toffee, taffy, caramel corn, and even items for the four-legged customers. It’s just too sweet to pass up while on Mackinac Island, and you’ll be comforted to know the Ryba’s online store stands ready to ship fudge to you after you return home. Go on; you deserve it.

Melissa Corbin is a contributor from Nashville, Tenn. 

Ryba’s Fudge Shops have four Main Street locations on Mackinac Island, Michigan. For more information, call (800) 44-RYBAS (800-447-9227) or visit ryba.com.

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