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Winfrey's Fudge and Chocolates/VisitingNewEngland small business partnership - Local Small Business Stories

An Unforgettable Visit to Winfrey's Fudge and Chocolates in Rowley, Mass.

The Story of How a Local Family Found Sweet Small Business Success

Fudge from Winfrey's Fudge and Chocolates in Rowley, Mass.

Delicious handmade fudge from Winfrey's in Rowley. Photo source: Winfrey's Facebook fan page.

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Something undeniably wonderful happens when walking into Winfrey's Fudge and Chocolates in Rowley, Mass.

The incredible aroma of chocolate saturates the retail store, thus setting the tone for an experience as happy as that proverbial kid in a candy store. Not only for the customers but for staff working behind-the-scenes in the attached factory at this family-owned business that dates back to 1979. Back in the day, however, Stuart and Christine Winfrey had limited space, making fudge in their home basement (more on that shortly).
Beyond the beautiful current-day Rowley retail shop and the manufacturing facility, the Winfrey family also opened retail stores in Stoneham in 1995, Wenham in 2008 and Beverly in 2013 that are thriving, to this very day.

Winfrey's Chocolates Retail Store in Rowley, Mass.
Newly-painted retail store at Winfrey's in Rowley. Photo credit: Jill Winfrey.

Everything here is handcrafted and made with love. To go merely with the lines that typically describe chocolate as "addictive" and a "sweet craving" and fudge as "melt in your mouth" would miss the point of Winfrey's versions. Although made with simple ingredients, the process to create a perfectly-balanced, full-bodied candy taste is a very complex art and science that Winfrey's continues to master. Just like the unmistakable sound of a musically-talented family singing together, the Winfrey family creates subtle notes of candy flavors that come together in perfect harmony. Winfrey's Fudge and Chocolate is like the gold standard of how fudge and chocolate should taste.

Sample of chocolates from Winfrey's Chocolates in Rowley, Mass.

Sample of handmade chocolates at Winfrey's Chocolates.

"The quality remains the same since the beginning" said daughter and co-owner Jill Winfrey, who
manages store operations, marketing and helping in the office as part of her multi-tasking responsibilities. "We never cut costs. Our chocolate is a very high quality chocolate from the Ivory Coast. Everything is hand deposited, hand decorated. We make the creams, the caramels, the butter crunch... We make everything. Customers love the taste. We do, too!""

Why All Seasons Call for Sweet Treats from Winfrey's

Winfrey's Fudge and Chocolates takes on a year-round status as a happy place for lovers of sweets, but particularly becomes that much sweeter from the fall to spring. Winfrey's sells at local fairs in autumn -- most notably, one of its neighbors, at the Topsfield Fair. Winfrey's also goes beyond the family name on its sweets by creating private label products for retail business around New England.  Locals and travelers can also find Winfrey's products at well-known New England businesses including Edaville Railroad in Carver, Mass., Mann Orchards in Methuen, Mass., Zeb's General Store in North Conway, N.H. Elia's Country Store in Wilmington, Mass., and Danvers Butchery in Danvers, Mass.

The colder season warms up when customers make a pilgrimage for Winfrey's Thanksgiving delights...

Thanksgiving chocolates from Winfrey's Chocolates in Rowley, Mass.
Turkey-shaped chocolates from Winfrey's. Photo source: Winfrey's Chocolates Facebook Fan Page.

Or during the Christmas holiday season for its wonderfully packaged and great-tasting gifts...

Chocolates Christmas holiday gifts from Winfrey's Chocolates in Rowley, Mass.
Colorful Christmas gifts from Winfrey's.
Photo source: Winfrey's Chocolates Facebook Fan Page.

Valentine's Day brings about love of a lifetime gifts in the form of chocolates...

Valentine's Day gift from Winfrey's Chocolates in Rowley, Mass.
Chocolates and Winfrey's go together hand-in-hand for Valentine's Day.
Photo source: Winfrey's Chocolates Facebook Fan Page.

Easter hops along at a fast pace at Winfrey's with more custom-made chocolates.

Easter bunnies at Winfrey's Chocolates in Rowley, Massachusetts.
Easter-themed chocolates from Winfrey's.
Photo source: Winfrey's Chocolates Facebook Fan Page.

Chocolate has no seasonal boundaries however, as America's favorite sweet treat pastime does quite well the rest of the year at Winfrey's with a seemingly endless variety of offerings..

Chocolates everywhere at Winfrey's Chocolates in Rowley, Mass.
A sea of chocolates from the production room at Winfrey's Chocolates.

While Winfrey's skillfully and artfully adapts to each season's theme, they also have a solid foundation for customer needs including baby showers, birthdays, teacher gifts and other special occasions.

From Basement to Brigham's to Bigger Business

Winfrey family at Winfrey's Chocolates in Rowley, Mass.
Jill, Christine, Mark, Scott and Stuart Winfrey. Photo source: Winfrey's Chocolates Facebook Fan Page.

The Winfrey's story comes from humble surroundings. Stuart and Christine began manufacturing cream and butter fudge on a gas stove in their basement the day they brought their sons, Mark and Scott, home from the hospital after they were born prematurely at four-and-one-half-pounds each. Stuart and Christine (a nurse by trade) left their jobs knowing "their lives revolved around their (the kids) every need."

Winfrey's Fudge and Chocolates, Rowley, Massachusetts - The Winfrey family back in the day when building a fudge business and taking care of the kids at the same time.
Building a business, taking care of the kids. Photo source: Winfrey's web site.

Mark and Scott found better health, but life challenges persisted on the career end of things. Soon realizing there was a choice between heating fudge and heating their home, the Winfreys tried selling their candy to anyone who would buy it. Fortunately, many local candy stores purchased the fudge, thus allowing the Winfreys to warm up both their home and business.

Demand became so overwhelming that Christine and Stuart rented a foundry space as a kitchen in Danvers, Mass. Using wooden paddles to blend the cream and sugar into fudge and heat the mix in copper kettles over open-flame gas stoves, the process led to something transformational. Brigham's, a former landmark New England ice cream chain based in Arlington, Mass., loved what the Winfreys were doing and commissioned them to create its fudge. Soon, Christine and Stuart generated 1,000 pounds of fudge for Brigham's every two weeks. While the business expanded, so did the Winfrey family with the birth of Jill in 1981. From that time on, the Winfreys continued their small business journey by growing its manufacturing and wholesale capabilities with 23 varieties of fudge, 18 flavors of salt water taffy and 10 fine chocolates.

The Rowley facility, born in 1990, allowed for enough space to meet the needs of the expanding business, including a 500 sq ft. retail store. Soon, the Winfrey's added more space to the building to allow for even great manufacturing and retail capabilities.

The manufacturing area at Winfrey's Chocolates in Rowley, Mass.
State-of-the-art manufacturing area at Winfrey's.

Today, Winfrey's makes more than 23 varieties of cream and butter fudge, 50 different fine chocolates, and 22 flavors of salt water taffy. The Winfreys have also named candy after all of their grandchildren!

Homemade fidge from Winfrey's Chocolates in Rowley, Mass.

Delicious meltaways at Winfrey's in Rowley.

The rich chocolate fudge continues to be the most popular product.

"It's a family secret on how the fudge is made," said Jill. "I can't tell you what my dad did to come up with the chocolate fudge, but it has a little bit of a different taste and it's great. It is our biggest seller."

While tradition continues in the form of chocolate fudge, creams, caramels, nougats, turtles and other long-time favorites -- as well as seasonal items like candy canes and peppermint bark -- Winfrey's Fudge and Chocolates continues to update and innovate. Jill's "Wicked Dark Wicked Good" 72 percent dark cacao bars deliciously and certainly meet 21st-century preferences!

Behind the Scenes at Winfrey's Chocolate Factory

Working the production line at the Winfrey's Chocolates factory in Rowley, Mass.
Working the factory production line at Winfrey's Chocolate in Rowley.

2019 brought in the 40th anniversary of Winfrey's Fudge and Chocolates and a fitting transition in ownership. Stuart and Christine made sure to carry on the family legacy by naming Jill, Scott and Mark as co-owners. The three kids who grew up in the industry know that ownership goes beyond just a title and, thus, work extremely hard to carry on the grand tradition.

Mark heads the shipping and packing department. Scott serves as the production manager.
As previously mentioned, Jill manages store operations, marketing and helping in the office as part of her multi-tasking responsibilities.

Jill  Winfrey, of Winfrey's Chocolates in Rowley, Mass.
Jill Winfrey at the Rowley retail store.

The staff is vital to efficient operations. A sampler: Vinny Gaudenzi, a friend of the Winfrey's dating back to his third grade days, is the assistant production manager and an expert candy maker.

Vinny Gaudenzi mixes the chocolate at Winfrey's Fudge and Chocolates in Rowley, Mass.
Vinny Gaudenzi (right) at the chocolate factory.

David Trainor, the fudge production manager, is a Peabody High School graduate who has been with Winfrey's since 1981. He once manufactured, singlehandedly, more than 3,000 lbs. of cream and butter fudge in one day!

David Trainor mixes the chocolate at Winfrey's Chocolates in Rowley, Mass.
David Trainor is a prolific candy and fudge maker.

Paul Martin, with the company since 1990, oversees the shipping and receiving department. With fine attention to detail and organization, nothing gets by him.

Paul Martin works the shipping and production end at the Winfrey's Chocolate factory in Rowley, Massachusetts.
Paul Martin works hard behind-the-scenes at Winfrey's.

Sam Scholofield works in retail and has been at Winfrey's since 2000. Tricia Hanlon, another long-time employee and Rowley native, is known as the "glue" behind the front office at Winfrey's with her friendly, familiar voice as an order taker and one who keeps everything in place.

Sixty-five employees make Winfrey's a special small business whether serving the public, behind-the-scenes or through delivery.

Delivery truck at Winfrey's Fudge and Chocolates in Rowley, Mass.
Delivery truck at Winfrey's in Rowley.

"We all have the same drive and interest," said Jill. "This is our life. This is our name."

Winfrey's, as Part of a Fun North Shore Day

Downtown Salem, Massachusetts
Salem, Mass.

The North Shore of Massachusetts stands as a fabulous New England vacation destination. Rockport, with its beautiful coastal village-like setting, features a charming Main Street, as well as quaint, narrow Bearskin Neck that leads to Rockport Harbor. Between the Main Street and Harbor is filled with art studios, mom and pop shops and restaurants. Gloucester features a cute little downtown, fresh seafood, beaches, lighthouses and a deep maritime culture. Salem is best known for its witch attractions but also features the downtown cobbletone Essex Street Pedestrian Mall with shops and restaurants. Also at Essex St.: the Peabody Essex Museum with its wonderful collection of historical and cultural art covering maritime American, Asian, Oceanic and African art. Crane's Beach in Ipswich is one of New England's most expansive, beautiful ocean beaches. Woodman's of Essex is reportedly the birthplace of the fried clam (1914) and simply fabulous for that dish, as well as lobster and other seafood. It is a New England seafood shack icon.

So you can have your fudge and chocolates to go with your taste of coastal New England, too!


Winfrey's Chocolates in Rowley, Mass.
Outside at Winfrey's Chocolates in Rowley. Photo credit: Jill Winfrey.

While people travel around the world to enjoy, as part of their vacations, chocolate factories with theme parks to famous chocolatiers in France, there are countless locals who know that sometimes the greatest treasures are right outside one's own back door. Winfrey's is, no doubt, one of those special places. After all, the taste buds never lie when it comes to identifying the best kind of fudge and chocolates. The fudge clearly surpasses the quality of many famed country stores' versions in New England and actually services some of these quaint, old-fashioned retail destinations. And while so many local chocolate businesses do a tremendous job creating fabulous-tasting chocolate in the six-state New England region, Winfrey's seems to always come up in conversation amongst lovers of fudge and chocolate. That is validated by face-to-face talks, online reviews, best of awards and the blessing of tasting the freshness of the candies from the Winfrey's shops. The long-established pride of ownership makes it that much better a place.

"This is a family business," said Jill. "Growing up, it was like a fourth child in the family. Lots of care has always gone into the business and that is why people keep coming back."

Winfrey's Fudge and Chocolates is located at
40 Newburyport Turnpike (Route 1), Rowley, MA. Tel. (978) 948-7448
115 Cabot St., Beverly MA. Tel. (978) 922-7448
41 Main St., Stoneham, MA. Tel. (781) 279-7448
143 Topsfield Rd., Wenham, MA. Tel. (978) 948-7448.

Winfrey's Web site:
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Yelp Reviews:

Read on about this amazing small, local business near Winfrey's:
Finding the best tasting whoopie pies at the Topsfield Bakeshop/ Whoo(pie) Wagon in Topsfield, Mass.

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A memorable visit to the very yummy Winfrey's Fudge and Chocolates in Rowley, Massachusetts.

Dear North Shore small businesses and community development people:
If you liked my sponsored post story on Winfrey's Fudge and Chocolates, I would be so honored to write in detail about your family-friendly business and/or the city in general. I believe New England travelers would love to learn more about your beautiful region. VisitingNewEngland business partnerships differ than feature articles previously posted on VisitingNewEngland. Businesses pay a small, one-time fee to have pages like this appear, and first must be accepted by editor and publisher, Eric Hurwitz, as a business he approves as part of "real New England travel" to keep the integrity of the site. Businesses that sign up for business partnerships receive priority by receiving more social media exposure and link placement on Contact Eric if interested in forming a business partnership.

Explore Massachusetts travel! Read the Massachusetts Town Greens book -- Discover New England's first travel attractions: town commons. Includes a chapter on the Rowley Town Common!

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