Ask anyone with a holiday gift list and they'll probably tell you that someone on their list is receiving fudge — either homemade or store-bought.
Debra Hanks, the owner of Iva Jean's Fudge (ivajeansfudge.com), started her sweets business in 2015 out of Waxhaw and provides homemade fudge for gifts (worthy of giving anytime of the year) and for personal indulging. Her product can be described as creamy gourmet fudge. Flavors like mojito, banana, brown sugar bourbon fudge and maple walnut are only a sample of what the family-oriented business provides.
And these goodies aren't just making their way around Charlotte, they're reaching a customer base outside of North Carolina. Currently, Hanks gets regular orders from clients in California, Ohio and Florida. That's a pretty big reach for a small business without a physical storefront — she only has a glass counter at a local market and an Etsy shop.
Hanks fondly remembers that when she was growing up, her late mother was always making fudge with her aunts in their kitchen in California.
Now, Hanks takes the recipes that her mother perfected and gives them a the clean and modern update needed to draw the attraction of adventurous fudge connoisseurs. She also designed the logo and named the business after her late mother — Iva Jean.
Creative Loafing talked to Hanks about the importance of family in the business and the quality of her fudge.
Creative Loafing: What are the advantages of making small-batch fudge? Flavor and quality?
Debra Hank: I think both. You get a better flavor and it's creamy. My fudge is real smooth and creamy. It's not a sugary, gritty texture. It's not killer-sweet like some of them can be. It is sweetened, mind you, but it's not like over sweet.
I try to use as many local and organic ingredients as I can get, which is most of them. A few things are not, like the Oreo cookies — I can't call it "Oreo Cookies" but it's my version of cookies and cream — and things like that. So I think small-batch just keeps it better quality and more control over the flavor and get a better product.
Where do you source your natural and organic ingredients?
I have a market that I go to where I get honey. I go to our local provisions store in Waxhaw where I can buy the sugar and eggs that I use in the marshmallow whip that I use in the fudge.
The chocolate is a high-quality chocolate from Guittard, it's out in California. I order that through a chocolatier distributer in Columbia, South Carolina.
Through local people, I can get fruits and things, then dehydrate the fruit. I have a sister in Pennsylvania that started me on the dehydration [practice]. She has apple trees in her yard and she had an abundant amount of fruit last year and so we decided to dehydrate them.
I crumbled them up and put them in my fudge. That's apple pie fudge. That's a really big popular flavor that came out in November, around the holiday. I try to keep certain flavors seasonal but that one's always requested.
What's the importance of family in the business?
My mom's been passed away from breast cancer for 21 years now and since it's her recipes that we started with, I felt that she should have a part of it. So we named it after her, the logo of the silhouette is of her, and my children are grown with their own children and we all just kicked around ideas and had a little part of all of it. So, for me it's been a family business and we all have our own little duties.