The Ryba’s Fudge story and the family history surrounding its confectionery craft began in 1936 when Harry Ryba opened his first sweet shop at Jefferson and Chalmers on Detroit’s east side.  It’s there that he began selling delectable fudge, donuts and caramel corn.

Ten years later Ryba opened a second store at Mack and Chalmers, where he began to hone his skill as a master fudge maker.

Around that time a 13 year-old began selling newspapers outside Harry’s store got his attention.  Finding himself slightly irritated and distracted by the loud, but driven kid and yet impressed by his determination, Harry decided to hire him.  That boy was Victor Callewaert who would end up marrying Harry’s daughter, Rena, and become his business partner for the next 30 years.

Ryba’s Fudge took off in the early 1950’s when Harry and Victor began selling their fudge at events and fairs, most notably the Detroit Auto Show at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. For 65 years Ryba’s has become a mainstay at what is now the North American International Auto Show, as well as since 1956 at the Chicago Auto Show.

In 1960 Harry and Victor opened their first fudge shop on Mackinac Island and there began the legacy that tourists and islanders alike enjoy year after year. Two of Harry’s marketing decisions earned him the unofficial title of “Fudge King” on the Island.  Those decisions — making fudge in the storefront window and fanning the aroma onto the sidewalk – went on to be copied by others in the business.

The opening of Ryba’s Fudge Shop on Mackinac proved to be a starting point from which the Ryba Family grew its business.  They opened The Pancake House, purchased and renovated the Lakeview Hotel, and bought the Island House Hotel, which was slated for demolition. After extensive renovations the Island House reopened in 1972 and is now listed on the register of Michigan State Historic Sites and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Since creating a separate venture in 1988, the Callewaert Family now owns and operates Ryba’s Fudge Shops on Mackinac Island and in Chicago, Illinois at McCormick Place and Navy Pier.  They own the Island House Hotel, the oldest hotel on Mackinac Island, and its 1852 Grill Room and Ice House BBQ restaurants.  Among their other Mackinac Island ventures are The Pancake House; Mary’s Bistro and Draught House; Mackinac Island Starbucks, along with several Starbucks locations in Chicago; the Seabiscuit Café; Pine Cottage Bed & Breakfast; the Bayside Bar & BBQ;, and a Jimmy John’s franchise in Florida.

Victor and Rena’s children – Todd, Mary, Ann and Gregg – now own the company with each providing leadership with the on-going counsel of their father who remains a fixture on Mackinac Island.

Though Harry Ryba passed away in 1996 his children and grandchildren – which includes four generations of extended family members who have helped in the business, too — have made sure the legacy of the “Fudge King” and the craft he has worked so hard for, magnificently lives on.

Timeline

2015

2015

Mary's Bistro is remodeled to connect with the Draught House, yielding Mary's Bistro Draught House.
2014

2014

Draught House, adjacent to Mary's Bistro, opens July 9th featuring 50 craft and local beers on tap.
2014

2014

1852 Grill Room, inside the Island House Hotel, is fully renovated.
2012

2012

Selma building is sold; leases end. Fudge shop, Fred's Burger Joint and Ryba's Ice Cream Parlor close.
2010

2010

Island House bike shop opens with 50 bikes to rent along with mobility carts.
2008

2008

Palmer House Starbucks opens for business November 5th.
2008

2008

Lease is signed May 3rd to open Starbucks at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.
2007

2007

Mackinac Island Starbucks opens on May 17th.
2006

2006

Building at 7308 Main Street is torn down new building is constructed to house Mackinac Island Starbucks, owned by the Callawaert family.
2006

2006

Family purchases the Starbucks at Navy Pier.
2004

2004

Mary's Bistro opens in the former Dockside Restaurant location.
2002

2002

Rena's Fudge Shops purchases building at 7308 Main Street on Mackinac Island. This is the future site of Starbucks.
1999

1999

Ryba's Fudge Shop opens in the French Outpost building on Mackinac Island.
1998

1998

Ryba's Fudge Shop opens at Chicago's Navy Pier and remains open until 2017.
1997

1997

Ryba's Fudge Shop opens at McCormick Place, Chicago, Illinois.
1995

1995

Telephones and cable television are added to Island House Hotel rooms. Island House pool house is built featuring the Ice House Bar & Grille, indoor swimming pool, and three guest suites.
1994

1994

Rena's leases first floor space in Harbor Place and opens Fred's Burger Joint and Ryba's Ice Cream Parlor.
1988

1988

Harry Ryba and Victor Callawaert divide company into two entities with Ryba taking ownership of Lake View Hotel, Ryba bike shops and Orphan Corner Mall. Callawaert assumes ownership of Ryba's Fudge Shops franchise, including presence at fairs and events, Island House Hotel and Pancake House. Callawaert businesses begin operating under the name of Rena's Fudge shops. Victor's five children, Mary, Todd, Amy, Ann, and Gregg, begin working in various capacities with their father.
1980

1980

New Jersey fudge shops close.
1978

1978

Corby building is torn down. Corby Heights building is constructed at the site.
1976

1976

Harry Ryba builds Orphan Corner Mall at the current Mary’s Bistro Draught House location, which features Ryba’s Fudge Shop, Ryba’s former Bicycle Drive-In, then the Dockside Restaurant, several other leased shops and second floor apartments.
1972

1972

Island House Hotel opens after extensive remodeling.
1971

1971

Lake View Transit Company is sold to Shepler’s Ferry.
1969

1969

Island House Hotel is purchased. Saving the historic building from demolition.
1968

1968

Harry Ryba opens Lake View Transit Company with three (3) boats.
1968

1967

The Bicycle Drive-In snack shop is built and opens at the current Mary’s Bistro Draught House location.
1963

1963

Ryba Bike Shop opens in vacant lot next to Pancake House.
1963

1963

Additional space is leased in the Dennany building on Mackinac Island to open the Pancake House.
1962

1962

Ryba’s Fudge Shop opens in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Harry’s son, Jimmy Ryba, runs the east coast operation; Jimmy Ryba and Victor Callewaert (Harry’s son-in-law) become stockholders.
1960

1960

Ryba's Fudge Shops open in Corby & Dennany buildings on Mackinac Island.
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