TOP SHELF Food Network show visits fudge shop
A cold call got the store national exposure.
By NANCILYNN GATTA
WARREN -- Walking into Top Shelf Sweets n Gifts is reminiscent of a visit to your grandmother's kitchen. Every imaginable sweet treat from candy to Fun-Flavored Fudge is set before you, and owner Michele Newman encourages customers to try a little bit of it all.
"I love candy. I don't like the fact that at other candy stores, you can't taste it before you buy it. I like to feed everyone," said Newman.
To promote her products, she took her love of marketing and cold calling to a national level. Newman contacted Roker Productions to learn how they select stories for "Roker on the Road," Al Roker's Food Network program. When the production company replied, she sent them samples of her fudge. She didn't receive another response, so she gave up hope.
"They started calling in June and on June 30, my daughter's birthday, they confirmed that they were coming," said Newman.
On July 21, Roker Productions filmed Newman's store and the creation process of Fun Flavored Fudge. The first showings were Tuesday night, in the "Retro" segment. Other airings will be 7:30 p.m. Oct. 2 and noon Oct. 12.
"They filmed every aspect of the store. The first cameraman was there around 8 a.m. We wrapped around 7:15 p.m.," said Newman.
The producer from Roker Productions frequently travels around the country. She remarked that she had never come across a similar specialty food.
The spacious front room has a huge board listing 64 flavors of fudge that are manufactured on the premises, as well as an assortment of decorative boxes to house the confections and whimsical figurines and ornaments are displayed on a front wall.
Newman's three businesses -- Top Shelf Sweets n Gifts sells candy and ornaments, Fun-Flavored Fudge offers an assortment of fudge to taste in every color of the rainbow and The Boxed Balloon is a specially designed delivery box with a helium balloon that pops out with a greeting when the box is opened with candy or fudge on the bottom as an anchor.
While her businesses serves area customers from her store and online across the country, it began very humbly. Newman originally made traditional fudge flavors as gifts during the holidays, but her daughter provided the idea to take it to the next level.
"Danielle asked me for bubblegum flavored fudge. I told her that I didn't know how to make it and she looked at me and told me, 'You're mommy and you can do anything.' I learned how just for her," said Newman.
With such faith in her creative efforts, Newman began to experiment with additional toppings on her sweet confections. This led to opening a home-based business.
"I published a Web site with Internet sales and corporate sales. I did that for almost three years," said Newman.
When her toy room was overflowing with ingredients, shipping boxes and fudge, Newman decided to relocate her fledgling business.
"I specialize in corporate sales. It's not professional to go into a company and say I want you to buy this product and by the way, it's manufactured out of my home," she said.
In November 2003, Newman opened her store at 1813 Elm Road in Warren. At this point, her fudge selection had grown to its present amount, but only after passing the "kid test" of her three children.
"They're so honest. They tell the truth when an adult might not [want to hurt your feelings]. I tried to make sugar-free fudge. I took some home and, very dramatically, my older son grabbed his throat with his hand, threw himself on the floor and said, 'Mommy that's the worse fudge you've ever made.' I threw it all away. I've not come up with a sugar free recipe yet," said Newman.
Newman creates her unique treats with a specific goal in mind.
"This is for my children. My goal is a million-dollar company by the time I'm 40. And I'm not going to fail. Failure is definitely not an option."