A hot fudge empire topped off by profits
Husband, wife team finds big retail sweet tooth for their product

By CHRISTEN GOWAN, Staff writer
Albany Times Union
First published in print: Wednesday, January 21, 2009

WILTON - Just eight years after cooking her first batch of hot fudge, Katie Camarro is finding sweet success with new flavors and an ever-growing number of stores carrying her concoctions.

And she's presiding over an empire built on the sticky confection that is now sold at 400 locations around the nation.

"There's no recession in chocolate, I hope," she said.

Camarro, along with her husband and co-owner, Jeff Shinaman, recently expanded their business, Sundae's Best Hot Fudge, purchasing another kettle to cook hot fudge and adding two new flavors, Jean's Java and Patti's Peanut Butter.

"I still think of us as being a small, tiny entity because there's always so much to do," Camarro, of Greenfield Center, said of her growing business.

She and Shinaman plan to add caramel and cherry flavors to their menu of fudges.

Sundae's Best, which was first sold at Schuyler Pond Home and Garden store on Route 29 outside Schuylerville, is now sold in over 400 stores nationwide. Restaurants, including Longfellow's and Olde Bryan Inn in Saratoga Springs, feature the hot fudge sauce on their dessert menus.

The company's newest customer is Terrain at Home, a retailer owned by Urban Outfitters. By the end of the month, the home-and-style store expects to stock Sundae's Best at its flagship store in suburban Philadelphia.

The sauce is cooked in a commercial kitchen space on Northern Pines Road, where Camarro and several part-time employees make sauces two or three times per week.

They make about 1,000 jars at a time and turned out about 40,000 jars last year.

Camarro says the new 30-gallon kettle will allow greater experimentation with flavors, including development of a wine-flavored hot fudge for a vineyard in the Finger Lakes region.

Camarro, drawing on her background in marketing, works on new ways to get people to try Sundae's Best. She and her husband spend some weekends at craft and trade shows, offering samples to retail and wholesale customers. "It's a grass roots approach to marketing," she said.

Camarro said that diversifying between retail and wholesale business has helped her to feel less of a crunch in the current economic downturn.

Sundae's Best posted its best sales year in 2008, she said.

She says it's been rewarding to see the small enterprise grow into a nationwide product. "I really don't take a lot of time to go 'gee, wow.'" Camarro said. "It's really more universal than I ever thought it would be."