Sporting her trademark bright, pink hat, which upon closer inspection I see has an elephant’s head protruding out of it, Lynne Grebenik looks more than a little eccentric.
But, as scores of people hastily gather around her tiny stall, tucked away in a secluded corner of Lincoln’s exclusive Castle Hill, I quickly realise that there is something truly special going on.
As I approach the stall Lynne is deeply engrossed in her work and wrapped in several layers of clothing to stave off the cold, rainy haze. In front of her lies an array of homemade, colourful fudge, which is very popular with the sweet toothed amongst us.
Made at her country farmhouse in Newtoft, Lincolnshire, fudge has been Lynne’s sole passion for nearly ten years. Although she admits at first it was sidelined to make way for her furniture business: “I used to run a furniture shop on Steep Hill selling a whole multitude of gifts and wooden items.
“However, people couldn’t just walk in and take pieces away with them, as they were often too heavy, so it wasn’t as profitable as it could have been. That’s where fudge came in.
“I began to sell it to meet the rent on my shop, but then it got to the point when it started to outsell all the other products. It was just so popular.”
Latching onto the success, her eldest son, Mark, suggested that she start up a company solely selling fudge. She jumped at the opportunity and in 2006 “Old Elephant Fudge” was born.
“I really love everything about fudge, from the whole process of sourcing the ingredients to standing out in the cold and wet selling it. So to be able to do it all the time, when it was so popular with the public, just seemed to make sense,” she says.
Since then, she has worked tirelessly to perfect new flavours to add to her already bulging glass cabinet, which showcases everything from traditional vanilla to death by chocolate. “I experiment with lots of different flavours which are either suggested to me by members of the public or by my family… I think that’s an exciting part of my job being able to be tucked away in my kitchen for hours on end just playing and seeing what I can come up with.”
However, she will be the first one to admit that not all of them are as successful as her original homemade recipe. “Not many of the new flavours take off. It may not necessarily be the case that they aren’t good, as things like apricot and pistachio work well. The problem is fewer people are interested in the niche ones, so I just can’t sell enough to make it viable… That’s one of the downfalls of only selling at farmers’ markets in the region.”
Despite this, Lynne is in no rush to start growing the business further afield — although she doesn’t rule it out for the future: “I like staying local. It’s much more exclusive. You get to know the clients and develop a real rapport. But, mostly I really enjoy chatting to the customers and getting feedback on my products.
“I think that’s what people like about my fudge… They can come to me and ask me questions about it, like where do you source your ingredients and I can tell them.”
It is clear that Lynne has a true passion for all things fudge, whether it’s making or eating it: “I think fudge is just charming… There is something about working with it as it turns from a warm rich brown mixture, into something that has character.”
Selling fudge has had a distinct impact on the amount that her and her family eat: “As a family we don’t eat as much fudge as we did before I started to make it.”
But, that doesn’t mean she has lost her sweet tooth altogether. She jokes: “It just means that when I am working on the stall, there is a lot of temptation to nibble on it!”Tweet