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The Ryba’s Fudge story and the family history surrounding its confectionery craft began in 1936 when Harry Ryba opened his first shop at Jefferson and Chalmers on Detroit’s east side.  It’s there that he later 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 the 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 1950s 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 1959 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-Callewaert 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 Hotel 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.

Harry Ryba’s grandchildren now own and operate the Island House Hotel, the oldest hotel on Mackinac Island, and its 1852 Grill Room and Ice House BBQ restaurants.  Among the Callewaerts other Mackinac Island ventures include the Pancake House; Mary’s Bistro Draught House; Starbucks; Seabiscuit Café; Pine Cottage Bed & Breakfast.

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

2019

2019

Victor and Rena’s children – Todd, Mary, Ann, Amy, 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. Each of the Callewaert children has found their own personal niche within the company and rely on plenty of extended family members throughout four generations for their contributions to the business as well.
2019

2019

Island House Hotel completes a $4 million renovation. Guest rooms debut with fresh coastal casual décor, lighting upgrades, hardwood flooring, USB charging stations, and high-speed WIFI. An outdoor hot tub and poolside furniture were added to the annex patio. Ice House BBQ & Bar includes the extension of the bricked courtyard, curated gardens, poolside indoor/outdoor bar, tented patio, and sundeck.
2018

2018

The 906 Rewards Club loyalty program now offers guests the opportunity to earn “spend like cash rewards” for food, drinks, hotel rooms, and even fudge on Mackinac Island.
2017

2017

The Callewaert family purchases everyone's favorite Mackinac Island watering hole, the Seabiscuit Café as well as the 14 guest room bed and breakfast known as Pine Cottage.
2010

2010

Island House Bike Shop opens with 50 bicycles to rent
2006

2006

Callewaerts open a Starbucks at Chicago’s Navy Pier and in 2008 adds another in the Palmer House Hilton.
2004

2004

Mary's Bistro opens in the former Dockside Restaurant location. Draught House, adjacent to Mary's Bistro, opens July 2014 featuring 50 craft and local beers on tap. In 2015, Mary's Bistro is remodeled to connect with the Draught House, yielding Mary's Bistro Draught House.
2002

2002

Rena's Fudge Shops purchases building at 7308 Main Street on Mackinac Island. Starbucks opens here in May 2007.
1999

1999

Ryba's Fudge Shop opens in the French Outpost building on Mackinac Island.
1997

1997

Ryba's Fudge Shops open in Chicago. The first in McCormick Place and then Navy Pier was added in 1998. Both shops close in 2017.
1996

1996

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.
1995

1995

Island House Hotel grounds undergo an extensive archeological dig clearing the way for the first addition since 1912. The 5400 square foot annex houses an indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, three suites, and the Ice House Bar & Grill, named after Mackinac Island’s oldest ice house located on the northwest corner of the property. Telephones and cable tv are added to guest rooms. 1852 Grill Room is remodeled and an access lift is added to the veranda.
1994

1994

Fred's Burger Joint and Ryba's Ice Cream Parlor opens under Harbor Place.
1988

1988

Harry Ryba and Victor Calleawaert divide the company into two entities with Ryba taking ownership of Lake View Hotel, Ryba Bike Shops and Orphan Corner Mall. Callewaert assumes ownership of Ryba's Fudge Shops, Island House Hotel and Pancake House. Victor's five children, Mary, Todd, Amy, Ann, and Gregg, begin working in various capacities with their father.
1976

1976

Harry Ryba builds Orphan Corner Mall which features Ryba’s Fudge Shop, Ryba’s Bicycle Drive-In, Dockside Restaurant, several leased shops, and second-floor apartments.
1972

1972

Throughout its incredible restoration, every step was taken to preserve the striking architectural features of the hotel exterior, including its many columns, porch spindles, gables, windows, and door styles. During this two-year project, the Island House was closed to the general public but reopened with a spirited celebration on June 23, 1972. The final triumph came on August 11, 1973, the State of Michigan anointed the Island House as a Michigan Historic Landmark.
1969

1969

Harry Ryba & Victor Callewaert purchase the Island House Hotel saving it from pending demolition.  The land Island House Hotel is on is leased from Mackinac State Historic Parks making it the only hotel located within the boundaries of Mackinac Island State Park.
1968

1968

Harry Ryba opens Lake View Transit Company with three boats. The company is sold to the Shepler family in 1971.
1968

1967

The Bicycle Drive-In Snack Shop opens at what is now Mary’s Bistro Draught House.
1963

1963

In 1963, additional space was leased in the Ryba's Fudge Shop Dennany building on Mackinac Island. Pancake House begins serving all-day breakfast. Pancake House remains an All-American favorite still today. Ryba Bike Shop opens in the vacant lot next to the Dennany building.
1962

1962

Ryba's Fudge Shop opens its doors in Atlantic City, NJ with Jimmy Ryba, Harry’s son, in charge. This location remains open until 1980.
1959

1959

The first Ryba's Fudge Shops open on Mackinac Island in the Corby & Dennany buildings. Proud of their signature fudge Harry pioneers the tradition of handcrafting the most mouthwatering fudge in the front window and fanning the aroma into the streets to capture the attention of passersby. He becomes known as the “Fudge King.”
1950

1950s

Ryba’s fudge becomes popular in the early 1950s when Harry and Victor expand fudge sales to events and fairs, most notably the Detroit Auto Show at the State Fairgrounds. Ryba’s remains the official fudge of this marquee event, now known as the North American International Auto Show held at Detroit’s Cobo Hall. Ryba’s fudge has been a staple at the Chicago Auto Show since 1956 as well. As these events and venues continued to grow, so do Ryba’s.
1947

1947

Harry meets a loud but driven twelve-year-old selling newspapers in front of his store. Although he finds himself slightly irritated with this young man, he is impressed by his drive and determination. He hired the boy and they would subsequently become partners in 1958. This young boy was Victor Callewaert, who would marry Harry’s daughter Rena a few short years later.
1946

1946

Ten years later, Harry opened a second store right down the road at Mack and Chalmers, where he continued to sell his sweet treats. Here, Harry began to really hone his skill as a master fudge maker. This is where the inception and perfection of Ryba’s fudge truly began.
1936

1936

The Ryba’s Fudge story and the family history surrounding its confectionery craft began in 1936 when Harry Ryba opened his first shop at Jefferson and Chalmers on Detroit’s east side next to a movie theater in a time when theaters did not have concessions.  It’s there that he began selling delectable fudge, donuts, and caramel corn.
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Ryba's Fudge Shop