A sweet Mackinac Island’s family legacy. Take a bite out of the delicious story of Marshall’s Fudge & Chocolate Company in Mackinaw City.

This article first appeared in Traverse Northern Michigan. Find this story and more when you explore our magazine library. Want Traverse delivered to your door or inbox monthly? View our print subscription and digital subscription options.

How’s an average Mackinac Island guy make his mark when he’s got a grandfather who served as the first light keeper of the Round Island Lighthouse and a great-grandfather who was not only Old Fort Mackinac’s longest-serving soldier but also its commander during the Civil War?

If you’re Jim Marshall in 1952, you go after a sweeter kind of success—serving up handcrafted fudge. The founder of what was originally Marshall’s Driftwood Fudge, located then on Mackinac’s Main Street and eventually expanded to six locations throughout the Straits area, passed in 2020, but the Marshall fudge legacy lives on through his granddaughter Lori Frohoff, who learned the family craft from her parents, Jeannie and Dean Marshall, who learned from Dean’s mom and dad, Oradelle and Jim.

Photo by The Marshall Family

Lori’s earliest memories of her family’s dynasty began in the shop her grandpa opened in the heart of Macknaw City in 1962. The store stands on East Central Avenue still today.
“I was maybe five years old. I remember being there with my dad and mom, making candy,” she says.

During Lori’s childhood, Marshall’s was only open seasonally; her dad, a CPA, also worked as an accounting professor at Ferris State University. The moment school ended for summer or Christmas break, the family of four would pack up and move north to Mackinaw.

For nearly a decade until her parents were able to rent and then finally build a home Up North, Lori and her younger sister slept in bunk beds in the shop’s back office; her parents slept in a nook that also served as the family kitchen and dining room. Showers took place in the shop’s only bathroom. Family life was cramped, but it was good.

Photo by The Marshall Family

“I would be in the store for a minute and then out running around with my sister doing whatever we wanted because, back then, it was like, ‘Just come home before it’s dark,’” she says. “We’d say we were going to go fishing at the marina, but we’d get bored. And so we’d jump on the [ferry] boat because one of the captains would let us ride back and forth to the island for fun. Sometimes we’d try to sneak into the pool at the Grand [Hotel].”

Like her parents and grandparents, Lori runs the shop with her husband, Pat. She’s a former teacher; he’s a Southern California-raised CPA.

When her parents were ready to retire, they followed in Jeannie and Dean’s footsteps, packing up and moving north to Mackinaw with their then-5-month-old daughter, Maille, in tow.

Photo by The Marshall Family

Photo by The Marshall Family

Today, Marshall’s Fudge & Chocolate Company abides by the same tried and true recipes her grandparents created for their hallmark fudge: sweet cream caramel kisses, peanut brittle, pecan logs, divinity and more. (“All those really old-fashioned candies that people remember from long ago,” Lori says.)

Each small batch is still made fresh every day—always with the finest ingredients, never with preservatives— cooking and cooling in the same copper kettles and on the same marble tables her family has been using for decades.

Some things have changed with time, of course. To get the marble at the right temperature, the slabs no longer need to be cooled with ice in summer or warmed with kerosene lanterns in winter. The shop is open year-round, too, a change Dean made when he retired from academia. And a newfangled website lets anyone in the world order their favorite Marshall’s treats anytime.

Photo by The Marshall Family

A few of the makers have changed in the last half-century. There’s Bud Herholtz, who has been making fudge for Marshall’s since his Ferris State accounting professor recruited him to work for “one summer” in 1975. There’s also Stacy Santer, a legacy chocolatier who learned the craft at age 10 from her grandmother, founder of The Chocolate Hut, which was passed down to Santer’s mom, also a chocolatier, and then purchased by Marshall’s in 2011.

And finally, there’s Pat. “How long have you been making candy?” Lori asks her husband while speaking to us by phone. “He says about twenty, twenty-one years,” she reports, then laughs. “He’s considered the rookie.”

Photo by The Marshall Family

Photo(s) by The Marshall Family