My husband Steve and I have owned and run Bliss Ice Cream Parlour in Cowes for almost 10 years, and over winter I decided to use the off-season to teach myself the art of fudge-making! We figured it would compliment ice cream well and give us something to sell on days when the weather wasn’t so great (which, let’s face it, is fairly often!) We also realised there wasn’t a well-known fudge brand on the island, which seemed quite a gap in the market considering how popular fudge usually is in seaside towns.
So 3 cold winter months were spent practising a plethora of different recipes in my home kitchen – many a batch of fudge was made – fudge that didn’t set, fudge that spat at me, fudge that turned to concrete.. but eventually things started improving and I started to get the “feel” of it (and an accurate sugar thermometer!) and tweaked my recipe until finally I felt I had a fudge that I loved and that was delicious enough to sell to the public!
We began selling it in our shop, then the option of attending a weekend Christmas Market at The Garlic Farm was offered to me and I figure why not – our shop was closed and I had nothing better to do – little did I know that I would sell my entire stock on the first day! Suffice to say there was a very late night of fudge making that night along with a 5am cutting and wrapping session!
From there on I decided to attend any local fetes, food markets, fairs etc and even had a stall on The Parade in Cowes Week (which involved 4 solid weeks of fudge making in advance!) Steve set us up a website to enable us to accept orders online, and more recently we decided to attend a vegan festival with a newly developed line of vegan fudge which proved such a success that we have since attended our biggest events to date – Vegan Life Live in London and Manchester and VegFest in Brighton – all a lot of work but very successful and we now find a large chunk of our trade is for vegan fudge!
After a very busy Christmas with an almost unmanageable influx of online orders, we felt it was the right time to take the next step and we opened a Slab shop in January (next door to our ice cream parlour!) where all our fudge is made (still by hand, on the stove-top). We now have a regular income from online trade, attend major events regularly and have several wholesale businesses we supply to both on the island and on the mainland. And of course we’re so proud to have our first premises the public can visit to top up on supplies and watch fudge being made!
What a year 2019 was for Slab! We started the year with our 2 month old baby Coen in tow (assisting with Veganuary orders), took on 3 new Slab staff, attended some fantastic events including Vegan Life Live and the Isle of Wight Garlic Festival and expanded our wholesale stockists to include, amongst others, the Vegan Kind Supermarket. We also finally perfected our vegan recipe (after 2 years of tweaking, we are finally ready to shout about it) and made some changes to all our recipes, including switching to all natural flavourings. We also made the switch to plant-based packaging (no more plastic bags!) All in all it’s been by far Slab’s busiest and most productive year so far!
Well we didn’t see 2020 coming did we? There’s no doubt that it’s been a different year for everyone. What did it mean for Slab?
We were set for our usual busy year of events but it became evident in March when our first major event, Vegan Life Live, was cancelled at Alexandra Palace that things were not going to be as usual! From there on it was clear that any semblance of normal life was not going to return for some time, with the grip of Covid-19 playing a role in all of our lives.
However! For Slab, this meant our online business was to thrive – so many of you were stuck at home either going stir-crazy or unable to frequent your usual cafes and bakeries for treats – and orders came in to us thick and fast. Orders were sent around the country to you and your loved ones, gift notes wishing well those people you couldn’t see and hug. We felt over-the-moon to be able to continue trading and provide at least a little sweetness into your lives at such a tricky time.
The end of the first lockdown also brought on a big change for us – we sold on our sister business, Bliss Ice Cream Parlour! So from here on out, it’s fudge full throttle!!
Summer brought with it some vague return to what we remembered as normality – at least for us here on the Isle of Wight – a tier 1 area. We were able to re-open our shop and trade as usual, albeit without any summer events. In November we took on an industrial unit – a second premises for packing and processing. Covid-19 came back full force over the Christmas period meaning most people were again refined to their homes – suffice to say we had an exceptionally busy Christmas period – 5am starts were not uncommon in order to keep up, but we aren’t complaining!
We begin 2021 with hope for a better year for everyone. The 2nd full lockdown has enabled speedy progress on our industrial unit which is now well underway, with floors laid, walls built and kitchen equipment ready to be plumbed in and installed – we hope it will be in full action by the spring. In other news we have been working on some exciting new packaging designs which we just cannot wait to show you… watch this space!
2020 was a challenging year for most people – we feel very lucky to have been able to continue making fudge and trading throughout.