Sometimes, those little voices inside our heads confuse us with conflicting advice. While one shouts, “Pursue your passions and take risks,” another, in more cautious tones, urges us to be more measured in our approach to career choices.
Jessica Kost can say she has followed both paths and that heading down the road less traveled is the one she prefers—even though it’s not always without a few bumps.
Sitting at her eye-catching, bright green “fudge-O-lutely” stand in the brick building at Harrisburg’s Broad Street Market, Kost reflects on her decision to cross the bridge from a career in criminal justice to selling fudge full time.
“It was terrifying,” said the New Cumberland resident with a smile. “I’m not going to lie. I had good benefits and a steady income, but I just knew if I didn’t try this, I’d regret it.”
It’s not as if Kost didn’t possess the necessary experience to turn out a fantastic product. As a third-generation fudge maker, she learned all about the business early in life.
“My grandma Doris made it, and it was her mom’s recipe,” she said. “She made it in her home, and she had a little store in the back named ‘Karen’s Candy Kitchen’ after my aunt Karen.”
The lure of the candy was not lost on Kost’s father Jim, who, witnessing its popularity, decided to share the creamy, smile-eliciting confection with a larger audience. He started supplying local mom-and-pop stores then branched into larger businesses, before selling wholesale across the country.
Her family’s sweet success inspired her to make a go of it herself. So, when she eyed a Broad Street Market stand for sale back in October, she took the leap.
“All the pieces came together at the right time,” said Kost, who had to do very little to modify the former pizza stand to her needs. “The mixer was already here.”
Market Manager Beth Taylor said that fudge-O-lutely is a welcome addition to Broad Street’s craft food lineup and especially likes that Kost puts her own spin on a family tradition.
“She not only uses family recipes that go back generations, but is also innovative with her flavor combinations and seasonal flavors,” said Taylor.
Kost remarks that, while her grandmother sold four flavors and her father sells eight, she is now up to 40.
“I love playing around with different ingredients,” she said.
Kost sells her fudge in one-half and one-pound increments, as well as in little snack-size cups for $2 for those who want just a little bite of something sweet. She makes 50 to 70 pounds of fudge a week and rotates products so that eight to 10 flavors are available at any time.
“I try to keep it interesting by offering a variety,” she said.
Recently, she featured a lavender honey (which I highly recommend) and a unique IPA fudge in celebration of Harrisburg Beer Week, which John Kelly, owner of J.B. Kelly Seafood Connection, said he and his staff really enjoyed.
“She makes it fresh, and one of us usually walks down to her stand and brings it back to share,” he said, adding that the staff also recently enjoyed a maple/bacon flavor. “I purchased some chocolate cashew for my mother recently for Mother’s Day.”
Rachel Blevins of Middletown visits the stand often.
“I not only think her fudge is among the best I’ve tasted, but I also like her outside-the-box thinking when it comes to flavors,” said Blevins, ticking off a list of her favorites that include vanilla, the aforementioned IPA, chocolate peanut butter and chocolate cashew.
Danielle Pierre discovered fudge-O-lutely during a lunch break from work.
“The fudge truffles are to die for!” she said. “I also love the pecan praline, and the champagne truffles are amazing.”
Working closely with the community is important to Kost, who mentions a few of the local vendors she works with to craft her confections.
“I locally source as many of my ingredients as I can, purchasing milk and butter from local farms—chocolate from Wilbur Chocolate in Lititz, different, random ingredients from One Good Woman in Camp Hill and spices from Calicutts Spice Company in Lemoyne,” she said.
As for taking the leap into full-time fudge making, Kost said she’s glad she did.
“I’ve always been very independent, and fudge is my passion,” she said. “Working for myself is what I’ve always wanted to do. People ask ‘what do you do for fun?’ I tell them, ‘I make fudge.’ It’s seriously my favorite thing to do.”
fudge-O-lutely is located in the Broad Street Market’s brick building in Harrisburg. To learn more, visit www.fudgeolutely.com or their Facebook page.
Check out TheBurg/GK Visual’s “Burg in Focus” video that accompanies this story.