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Bristol, Va. business churning out beloved fudge nationwide

BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – If you’re looking to sweeten up a day on State Street in Downtown Bristol, The Southern Churn is your one-stop shop.

The ice cream parlor has all the sweet treats and just about every type of candy you want.

But The Southern Churn has gained plenty of local fans and even national recognition for the dozens of flavors of homemade fudge it offers.

“Fudge has turned out to be the star of the show,” Karen Hester said, The Southern Churn’s owner. “We make it all right here with real cream and butter, and lots of love.”

Hester also owns the neighboring boutique Cranberry Lane.

She opened The Southern Churn in 2014, originally serving up just candy and ice cream.

Fudge was a late addition to the menu. Hester taught herself how to make the confection.

“Everybody says, “Oh, I have my grandmother’s favorite recipe” and stuff like that,” Hester said. “I didn’t know any of that kind of stuff. I had to learn to make it right before we opened.”

Hester is glad she did learn the art of fudge because it’s become a local favorite since then.

It’s The Southern Churn’s best seller, and Hester is always adding new flavors to the line-up.

The store also offers free samples, which keeps bringing in new customers.

“The fudge is delicious,” said Wendy Stevens, a first-time customer from North Carolina. “I wish I could just take it all with me.”

In the back, The Southern Churn’s chef cooks up the fudge in two steel kettles.

Hester said it takes an exact science to nail down the perfect fudge.

“Humidity plays a real part in it,” Hester said. “Lots home-bakers and mothers or grandmothers will know how difficult it is to make fudge. So many things go into it, precise measurements.”

It also takes plenty of hard work as Hester said her chef can cook up to 20-30 batches of fudge in a day.

“I’ve taken a backseat now, and we have a fantastic chef,” Hester said. “Chef Tracy makes all the fudge here, but you get these calico or fudge arms from stirring, stirring, stirring.”

With over 100 varieties, The Southern Churn is not afraid to experiment with their fudge.

From standards like chocolate and cookies and cream, to unique tastes like Raspberry Jalapeno.

But there’s one flavor that stands out from the rest: the bright green Mountain Dew fudge.

“We wanted to really be creative and figure out something different, and what more fitting than Mountain Dew fudge,” Hester said.

Hester said it’s a tribute to the region’s role in the creation of the popular soft drink.

It’s only available for purchase at the Bristol store and in Marion.

The rest of The Southern Churn’s fudge, however, is available to ship nationwide.

It’s also available in Hard Rock Hotel and Casinos across the country, including Bristol’s newest attraction.

“We’ve been selling into Hard Rock in Florida now for almost four years,” Hester said. “Most importantly, is the one right at our back door, and they sell so much fudge over there.”

Hester said many of the customers who buy her fudge at the casino often come over to the shop to secure some fudge before they leave town.

After almost ten years of business, Hester said she is proud to be a part of the Downtown Bristol scene.

“It’s vibrant and active, anytime day or night,” Hester said. “Cranberry Lane and Southern Churn being such a staple in Downtown Bristol and to be a part of everything that’s going on here, we’re very excited.”

The Southern Churn is open seven days a week. You can check out some of their fudge here.