Today's feature is for those, who like me, have a weakness for all things sweet. No matter how I change my lifestyle, there will always be room for a treat here and there. I'd like to say I savour the mouthfuls, but truth be told, I love it so much, I usually gobble my treat up much faster then ever intended.
As Christmas approaches, sweet treats are EVERYWHERE! It takes all strength and determination on my part, not to stumble into a chocolate and sugar stupor. But I do enjoy the array, in moderation, of course.
One of the sweetest treats that I've always adored is fudge. The mystery of how this silky delight is transformed and created has always amazed me. I remember trying my hand at fudge when I was younger, and let's just say, the results were nothing short of disastrous. It's a feat I've not attempted since, but instead have left it to the pros. One of which is today's feature! Thus, I have quite a story to share with you today regarding the history of a wonderful lady, her life and hardships and the emergence of her fine business. So grab a coffee and a little treat of your own, put your feet up and relax as you get the inside scoop of Ugullit Fudge Factory!
Owner and genius fudge maker of Ugullit Fudge Factory is Grace Moon, a woman who is bubbly, full of life, quick to laugh, very personable, and as sweet as her fudge.
Owner and genius fudge maker of Ugullit Fudge Factory is Grace Moon, a woman who is bubbly, full of life, quick to laugh, very personable, and as sweet as her fudge.
I first met Grace, and tasted her delectable fudge, at the Medicine Hat Farmers Market. My life has never been the same since. The rich, pure flavours Ugullit Fudge has is second to none! With every new piece I tried, all I could say was "Wow!" Whether you love chocolate, caramel, vanilla, citrus, salty, sweet, crunchy, or smooth, there's something for everyone. I have a secret love of the salty/sweet combo, especially when the sweet is of the caramel variety. It actually will make me bounce and dance about when I eat it because I just can't handle how good it is! Whoever discovered this heavenly combo, you are ever in my debt of gratitude. So you can imagine my delight when Grace told me they had a flavour entitled "Salted Nut Roll". DONE! Two layers of fudge, with caramel, salted peanuts and rock salt sandwiched in between! How could I not get excited! I did so enjoy this fudge immensely. :)
The long journey to arrive where she is today, was a hard road for Grace. As she looks back to where she came from, Grace recalls, "I was born and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. I am the youngest of 4 living children. I was always a thoughtful person who cared for others above all else. I also have always been highly creative, artistic and musically gifted. My favourite place in our hundred-year-old house, was the basement where all kinds of "treasures" were stored for indefinite periods of time. This was an ideal place for a child, ripe with a creative mind."
"My dad was the one who taught me to cook and bake, do laundry, mow the lawn, fix the car, do basic maintenance etc. My mom told me she did not want me and publicly favoured my sister over me."
"My family (due to my dad's insistence) was always in some way assisting others in their times of need. Often times we went without in order to provide for another family or person. This was commonplace in our household. While we were financially poor, there was always someone worse off then ourselves and my dad did what he could to share what little we had." If only there were more people like this in the world. It would be a better place indeed.
Grace continues her story, "I was forced, at the age of eight, to work in the family janitorial business. Work was every day after school until sometime mid to late evening. I was also saddled with mowing not only our house lawn, but the church lawn as well, which took 4 hours (if I was fast). Work was always done before I could even think about play, which for me was swimming at the local pool. This was the norm for most of my life."
When Grace was 17, her dad became ill with the ever ravaging cancer. "[My dad] went from 400 pounds down to 98 pounds in just under a year. When my dad was first diagnosed with cancer, he was so ill that he could no longer clean our main client's building at 4 in the morning. It was also just off the street the prostitutes worked. It was not safe by any stretch of the imagination. My mother had fibromyalgia at the time and was not able to work either. My older sister was not required to work, as she was mom's favourite. The bills were piling up, and we had no money for food or bills, so I dropped out of high school and worked the family business on my own, while I watched my hero wither away. I worked to keep the mortgage and bills paid and put food on the table." I am happy to say that Grace went back to school and worked hard to finally receive her grade 12 diploma and is a grad of 2010! She is so proud, as she ought to be. Grace is the only one of her siblings to earn a grade 12 diploma. Way to go Grace!
"When [my dad] died, my world was shattered. I was left with my mother and sister who daily abused me. My only two options for leaving home were either in a wedding dress or a coffin. My mother did not support my going back to school and getting my high school diploma…I worked for her. At 18, I chose the wedding dress option to finally leave home; from the pot into the fire. After seven and a half years and two babies later, I was tired of being treated like a punching bag, so I kept my two daughters and kicked out my (ex) husband. Since he refused to pay child support, I went back to college and earned my certificate as a Nurse Aide, as I needed money to support my children and myself, and I needed it fast. I worked in two hospitals, as well as my mom's janitorial business, in order to not only take care of my infant children and myself, but also to take care of my mother (and my sister, her husband and their two children) as well."
If there is anything I can say about Grace at this point, it's that she's a hard worker. Even when faced with the most difficult of circumstances, when most of us would have given up, she pushed through and kept on trucking. My admiration continues to grow with each passing moment.
A year after her divorce, Grace met her current husband, (who has been fondly nicknamed "The Candy Man" by fudge lovers/customers). Grace's husband was born in Nassau, Bahamas, but his family moved to Comox, B.C. when he was ten years old. Having been married and divorced and with three children of his own, he and Grace dated for a year and then got married.
"When we had Christmas with all the children, we would spend Christmas Eve walking down town, handing out wrapped gifts (new clothing that I had bought and wrapped) and home baked goodies (that the kids and I made) to the street people. On years we did not have all the kids, I would work at the soup kitchen. Hubby was working in the military at the time. His job took us to New Brunswick for four years, then later to Cold Lake, Alberta, where he served for four years."
And this is where the fudge magic begins.
While living up in Cold Lake, Grace and her family would sometimes go to a little hiccup town/community, called Pierceland, in Saskatchewan. "There was a "mom and pop" store that was right out of olden times. This store carried everything from fabric to saddles to bedpans to boots and rope. It was a much bigger scale of my mother's basement. The folks were very nice people and I could easily spend hours looking and touching all the different old-fashioned things for sale…many of which I was already familiar with using, due to how I was raised."
A year after Grace discovered this store, the couple who owned it decided to retire. "Their children had no interest in taking over the store, so they decided to sell everything and enjoy retirement. On a visit to the store in the last two weeks of being open, I asked what they were doing with the fudge part of the business. I had thought [the lady] would carry on just the fudge part. She paused, then exclaimed that she hadn't thought about it. I asked how much she would sell the equipment for (truthfully I was just snooping, I had NO interest in taking over the fudge stuff). She thought about it and gave me a number. I was surprised and through that it sounded like a pretty good price."
Once Grace was home, she mentioned her conversation to her husband and it was nothing more than that, just a conversation. When he asked if Grace was interested, she said no, initially, but it got the wheels turning. "I recalled how a great many people enjoyed the fudge, and I had that familiar pang of helping people to be happy. Cold Lake is isolated. There is NOTHING to do there!!! I brought the topic up to hubby again and expressed my concerns, as it was a large investment for our funds at the time. What helped me decide was, hubby reminded me that the people of Cold Lake and surrounding areas had nothing else for enjoyment, and that if I took it over, at least that little bit of enjoyment would still be there." The worst that could happen is she wouldn't enjoy it, and Grace could then always sell the equipment online and make her investment back, which sounded safe enough.
"The next week, I drove to Pierceland, a couple days before the store's final day, and bought the fudge equipment. What I did not realize was how generous the lady would be to me. She gave me EVERYTHING, and then some, related to the fudge equipment. I later discovered what she gave me was worth 6 times more then she asked for it. She also gave me recipes she made up, advice on tweaking recipes, locations as to where to sell and what trends were established. The absolute very best advice she gave me was, to be generous. This advice is one I have taken to heart, and is part of our mission statement."
While in Cold Lake, Grace operated under the name of "Wild Rose Fudge Factory." "Hubby and I built a special fudge kitchen in our finished basement. We took a food safe course and were fully licensed and operational. Being a small town (12,000 people), it was not hard to discover where we lived. People came to our house all hours of the day, and even late into the night, asking if we had any extra fudge they could buy. I had always given out free samples, both from home as well as at the Farmers Market there. I quickly discovered how much joy it brought me to see the happiness the fudge was bringing my customers. The local flower shop had entered into discussions with me about supplying them with fudge for their business. Then it happened…"
Chocolate Raspberry Dream
"Hubby was told he was being sent to Afghanistan and would be gone a year and a half. We had already been without him for several years due to his job, and this was the straw that broke my back. I expressed how I was not willing to endure military life any longer, that the children and I needed roots in a less isolated place. Hubby agreed that he was no longer happy about leaving for such long periods of time either, so he decided to retire. He told me to pick a location I'd like to move to, as long as it was in Alberta. Since my mother was born and raised in Medicine Hat, and we have a vast history of our family line there, as well as Seven Persons and the Cardston area, I naturally chose Medicine Hat.
Grace and her family moved to Medicine Hat in April 2009. She had originally thought to open a storefront, but soon discovered the great lack of foot traffic. Because rent in other places was quite high, Grace put her fudge supplies in storage until they finished their house renovations, which included another fudge "prep area."
I have an organizational board, next to my kettle in my fudge room, where I figure out flavours to make, what to order and the expected date of delivery for supplies. It is ever changing from week to week, as each week happens. The day I put up the board I put on the top two things that have never changed, as it is applicable each and every day. "QUALITY takes NO SHORTCUTS" and "Be GENEROUS in EVERY FACET of the business."
These beliefs encompass not only the product, but the workers also. I try to ensure I am generous with the staff as best as I am able, because the whole point of the fudge is to bring joy, happiness and good memories to all that come in contact with us. I want to be associated with being a happy place. If the best part of your day is to eat yummy fudge, have great conversation and enjoy the companionship of those of us behind the counter…and one another, then our job is done. This goes both ways too. I want the staff to experience the same safety and joy our working environment brings. I expect nothing but quality and hard work from the staff. Work hard, Love hard. We are a team and our mission is to bring happiness. We can do that only when our own needs are met and we too are happy."
Grace entered the Farmers Market here in Medicine Hat, and we are all so thankful she did. She's thankful too! "We have gained a wonderful cliental, which grows every week. I have been excited to watch pregnancies turn into beautiful babies (I love babies), we have a special client we call our Toonie buddy. He saves up his allowance to buy a Toonie piece of fudge each week. We have a family who comes each week to buy their dad his weekly maple fudge, as he is not able to get out. I love the consideration and devotion they show their father!! There are many more customers, with their own unique stories, that we love to be a small part of. I admit, I genuinely feel happy each time I see a returning customer. It's reuniting with an old friend again. When I know a customer has a favourite flavour, I try to ensure I always have a supply for them each week."
Ugullit Fudge Factory has a constant set of flavours that seem to be universal favourites. They incorporate new flavours almost every other week, to reflect the seasons and holidays. Ugullit currently has 30+ flavours for this holiday season, to ensure everyone can select something they, or a loved one, would enjoy. Ugullit also has a selection of Sucrose Free flavours, for diabetics and those watching their sugar intake, that continues to grow. They wanted to ensure no one was left out. :)
Although Ugullit fudge is gluten free (can I get a woot woot), it is produced in the same area that is used to prep their gluten filled fudge ie: cookies etc. Some with Celiac have eaten Ugullit fudge and been fine, while others have reacted. If you are Celiac or severely gluten intolerant, it's your decision whether or not you would like to try it. "I don't want anyone to have a bad experience, as I care about the well being of our customers."
One thing that amuses Grace, is when potential customers claim they do not like fudge. "My husband takes it as a personal challenge. Once he establishes that they have not in fact tasted our fudge, he sets out to find a flavour they may enjoy. He has made many converts this way. People do not realize how fresh our fudge is, or that I tweak it to taste better than amazing. I pride my fudge in being "so fresh you just may have to slap it."
"A perk of my business is I get to be the first to "test" each batch of fudge made, in order to ensure quality control. Once you've had fresh, you can't go back!! Because I ensure only the freshest of ingredients is used in my fudge, I readily notice the quality of ingredients in products made and sold locally that is comparable. I am proud to note I ensure a superior product is produced in every batch of fudge I make."
Ugullit has had their fudge shipped or taken all around the world. "Germany, Japan, USA, from PEI to Vancouver Island and everywhere in between. I am pleased to know people enjoy our fudge enough to want to share it with friends and family. I am a woman who values quality over quantity in every facet of my life. I want my name synonymous with quality. Quality of product and quality of experience with us, so that everyone knows they too are quality."
Cappuccino White Chocolate Cheescake
Pumpkin Pie Caramel Apple Pie Swirl
With her love for making others happy with her fudge, Grace herself was brought joy and filled with gratitude as she became sick with the flu during the two-day Christmas Market in Medicine Hat. Upon hearing she was unable to attend, others jumped to the plate to ensure that Ugullit Fudge Factory was open and selling and meeting the needs of all us fudge junkies at the market, even if Grace herself couldn't be there. What goes around, comes around :) (and by that I mean joy, not the flu ;P)
Something that Grace did as "Wild Rose Fudge Factory" and will continue to do as "Ugullit Fudge Factory", is every Christmas and New Year's day(s), they put together several platters of a variety of fudge and deliver them to the Emergency room at the hospital, the Fire Station and the Police Station. "These people have to work on a holiday to ensure everyone else is safe and cared for. We at Ugullit Fudge Factory want to share our gratitude for their service and sacrifice, which is why we take the time on Christmas morning and New Year's Day, to make the deliveries to these wonderful people."
Now, you may be wondering, "How did the name Ugullit come about? I thought you said it was Wild Rose Fudge Factory." It was, initially, Wild Rose, but when Grace and her family moved to Medicine Hat, it was time for a name change. I sure enjoyed this part of the story and you'll never forget hot to pronounce "Ugullit" after reading this :D
"The story of how our name came about is one that makes me laugh still today."
"I was working on base in Suffield, as the cashier for the UK soldiers. Part of my job was to assist soldiers of every nation that was represented there. I was thinking and thinking of what to call the business, when a soldier, with a thick Scottish accent, came up to the counter. Being of Scottish decent, I thought it a wonderful idea to incorporate my heritage, if at all possible. I asked him if he would tell me how to say "heavenly" in Scottish. He looked at me weird and replied, "Heavenly." "Drat," I said. I thought again and asked, "How do you say heavenly in Celtic?" He looked at me weird, paused, then said "Ugullit." I was so excited. Then I grew suspicious, because the Brits liked to tease us Canadians about "our accent." I cautiously asked "Is that Celtic for Bulls*!t?" He looked taken aback, and responded, "No, Ugullit, Ugullit." The Brit I worked with looked up from his desk and said to me, "He is telling you to Google it." They laughed so hard as I tried to contain my composure. For the next several days I laughed and laughed at my mistake. I KNEW that Ugullit was in fact the new name of my Fudge Factory…and it has Scottish influence."
Grace is currently in the process of gathering everything required to open a storefront. Her goal is to produce fudge for wholesale to local businesses, as well as have an area where foot traffic can come in and purchase in smaller quantities too. "I would like to also offer other goods to sell to food traffic customers, such as mini pies, both sweet and savory etc, but made in the old school way. I am a fan of handmade and want people who appreciate quality handmade food, in this fast paced time, to be able to have access to old school homemade style food that they can take with them. I am eager to know what the public would like to be able to get for themselves and their families, that I could sell in my store.
Raspberry Chocolate Swirl
Ugullit Fudge Factory plans to support the Arts, the SPCA, and Education. Ultimately, Grace would like to support girls in third world countries, to be able to obtain education and to become self sufficient.
Education, especially for females, is highly regarded at Ugullit Fudge Factory!! "I plan to take a business management type of course in the future, so I can feel more comfortable at running a better business, rather than just working a business. I would like to be able to hire staff and help in the community. This business is about the betterment of people. Our actions cause a rippling effect, whether we realize it or not. I would like Ugullit Fudge Factory to be a catalyst that assists people in causing a positive rippling effect."
"I believe when you follow your true heart's passion, a way will manifest itself in unexpected ways. If you do not judge or demand which direction your passion will take, you will find your journey leads to something even better then you could have imagined."
Grace truly is an inspiration, and it's refreshing to hear her story, going from brokeness and nothing, to living a passion and enjoying life. For her to achieve her full dream, however, it takes us to help out. How? By purchasing and eating her delicious fudge, of course. It's a hard task, but someone's gotta do it!
Grace's market season is over for this year, however, she will be back at the Medicine Hat Farmers Market, Summer of 2013. Be sure to stop by and find a new favourite flavour!
Please go to Ugullit's facebook page here and "like" it. Then you can stay up-to-date on where you can find Ugullit to purchase some fudge and be the first to hear about new flavours and all things fudge! If you have any questions, you can message Grace on her facebook page.
Next week's feature hint: Soothing Cake!