The Gary McClellan Story
written by: Gary McClellan
Just before graduation from U. of D., I decided to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. After all of the testing was done and the U.S. Air Force recruiting office interview commenced on November 23, 1963, the phone rang…with the news that President Kennedy had been shot! The interview was terminated. I was never called back. Instead, a beer with my best friend, Jim Garrahy (aka:“Mort”) at the Puppet Room in Grosse Pointe Michigan, turned into a wild ride for “Mort” and I. Two twenty two-year-old guys with no jobs, no money, no cars, and still living at home convinced the “Small Business Administration” to lend us $6000. It was a dream that did come true!
We opened our first fudge shop in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan on June 1, 1964. That Original Fudge Shop is still open today. As we built counters with my Dad and friends, ordered products and equipment, the shop was coming together. However, we had one big problem…neither “Mort” nor I had ever made a complete batch of fudge…from start to finish. “Mort” had never even seen fudge!! I had only stirred fudge on Mackinac island. I was never allowed to cream, loaf, or shine a hand stirred fudge batch!
Undeterred, we coated the windows with “Bon Ami” so, nobody could see us testing our fudge making techniques…Then, we tried our first batch, then the second, then the third, and so on…Fear was in our hearts. What had we done??? Was there a secret ingredient we had missed??!!!? Mort was ticked at me! He yelled, “What? You’ve never made fudge?” “No, I’ve only stirred fudge!” I whimpered. “But, I’m positive I can do it, unless there is a secret formula or ingredient I don’t know about!” You could either drink it with a straw or build a house with it. Every failed fudge batch was greeted warmly by our furry friends as we dumped it in the nearby woods to cover our failures. THEN, FINALLY!, IT HAPPENED! WE HAD MAPLE FUDGE! It was creamy and delicious. From then on it was smooth sailing.
Life’s too short. My good friend, “Mort”, passed away in 2012 in Gettysburg, PA after establishing 79 fudge shops all over the world and a fighting a long battle with Cancer. He left us with many memories of an exceptional human being with an extraordinary sense of humor and a warm heart that expanded beyond the imagination. God Bless Mort!
After 50 years, I’m still “fudging it”… McClellan Properties is a Michigan Fudge Business with 9 shops all the way from Sault Ste. Marie in the Upper Peninsula to Rochester just north of Detroit. Fudge has become Michigan’s favorite candy and we are proud to be apart of the reason why.