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Pulaski’s own Fudge Lady

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

Fudge. It’s what’s for dessert…or maybe for a midday snack. Heck, why not a little fudge for breakfast? When it comes right down to it, anytime is a good time for fudge. Especially when there is a variety of tasty fudges to choose from, as is the case at the sweetest shop in Southwest Virginia, the Blue Ridge Fudge Lady.

Walk into the Blue Ridge Fudge Lady store in downtown Pulaski or at the Fudge Lady’s newest outlet in Wytheville and lovers of fudge and bonbons and ice cream will be confronted with a variety of delicious choices. At last visit, we had the option of choosing butter pecan, chocolate pecan, orange cream (made with orange candy oil), raspberry (made with raspberry mash), chewy praline, chocolate mint swirl, cheesecake, orange sherbet and the latest Fudge Lady flavor, Boston Crème Pie.

If bonbons are more to one’s liking, there were strawberry, Oreo, Key lime, dark overboard, red velvet, mint and lemon flavors to choose from. The flavors change from time to time but the variety of flavors remains constant, as does the quality of the sweets, which is excellent.

It’s not just the Southwest Times that says so, Virginia Living Magazine recently gave the Blue Ridge Fudge lady one of their top awards for Best Chocolatier.

But who is the Blue Ridge Fudge Lady? It is Robin Burdette, the same lady who was given the Small Business of the Year Award by the Pulaski Chamber of Commerce at their annual dinner.

Burdette is a native of Shawsville and it was there, years ago, that she was first introduced to fudge and bonbons and other sweets made by her grandmother. This experience played a big role in developing her sweet tooth, but before becoming Pulaski’s Fudge Lady, Burdette joined the military and traveled the world. For years, she sailed the seas on a Navy destroyer as a ship’s cryptologist. After being on active duty, Burdette joined the Army Civil Service as a cryptology specialist and today still works as an independent contractor specializing in Cyber Security.

After living in many cities and traveling frequently due to her work, Burdette decided she wanted to return to the mountains of Virginia, primarily for the benefit of her daughter Abigail Deiulio.

“My dad and brother both live here,” said Burdette. “I wanted Abby to grow up with them and I wanted her to go to a good school. She was having trouble in school, reading two grade levels below. Today, she’s reading a couple of grade levels above and aced an SOL, so the Pulaski County School system has been amazing for my daughter. They’ve done a great job with her.”

In 2014, Burdette decided to followed a life-long dream and open a fudge shop.

“My first fudge shop was in Radford, which bombed tremendously,” she said. “It was a big fat failure. The internet is really bad in Radford. I closed up shop and bought a house in Snowville.”

From there, Burdette searched for a new location to open a fudge shop. She scoped out Blacksburg and Christiansburg, but in the end chose downtown Pulaski. “It was my best option. The internet infrastructure here is amazing and the operating costs are lower compared to surrounding communities.”

Before opening the doors of her store in 2015, Burdette needed to tear out the walls, replace the plumbing and paint her new space, doing much of the work herself. Today, the brightly colored Blue Ridge Fudge Lady, at the corner of Washington and First Street, stands out as one of the most successful businesses in town, but it’s been a learning process.

“When I first opened, I struggled in the summer months because not a lot of people were buying fudge in the summer,” she said. “So, I put in ice cream and it really brought people in. They came for the ice cream and then they saw the fudge. I actually sold more fudge that way.”

She has also expanded her online presence, frequently posting videos on her Blue Ridge Fudge Lady Facebook page and selling through the internet, which makes up about 25 percent of her total business. On a normal day, the Blue Ridge Fudge Lady will ship at least one package of sweets to someone who bought online. Last Christmas, she shipped between 25 and 50 packages a day to various locations around the country.

Lest one think otherwise, Burdette, AKA, the Fudge Lady, makes all of the fudge herself using a large kettle, which keeps the fudge at the perfect temperature. “It stirs it and tells you when it’s done, it’s super awesome,” she said smiling broadly.

Smiling comes easy to the Burdette as anyone who has visited Blue Ridge Fudge Lady and spoken to her knows. She becomes absolutely bubbly when talking about her newly adopted hometown.

“Pulaski has almost become my addiction,” she explained. “I love this town. It’s grown on me. When I drive the streets of Pulaski, I see opportunity. I see people that really want this town to be vibrant and alive and I think that’s the reason people come in here. They ‘re excited about the fact that there’s progress being made. I’m excited about it, too. One recent Saturday, we had a music and merchants festival. It was amazing. They closed down the entire Main Street. We had people everywhere. It was so beautiful. It was great. So, I am really excited about this town.”

Burdette is also enthusiastic about her new store in Wytheville, which opened in December. The Wytheville branch of the Blue Ridge Fudge Lady store is larger than the Pulaski version but so far has a little less business. It is located at 200 West Main Street in Wytheville, just down the street from Wytheville Office Supply, which features a giant pencil on its storefront.

Still, it’s clear that Burdette has a sweet tooth for Pulaski.

“I think people who live here want to see the town succeed,” she said. “I think people like to see a cheerleader for Pulaski because I think we need more cheerleaders in Pulaski. But I’m definitely a really big fan.”

The Blue Ridge Fudge Lady in Wytheville is open from 11 a.m. till 8 p.m. The Blue Ridge Fudge Lady in Pulaski at 158 M. Washington, is open from 11 a.m. till 9 p.m., so if it’s fudge for breakfast, better buy some the day before.

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