August 4, 2022
Made In Bristol: The Southern Churn Story
Before you even walk in the door of The Southern Churn, you can smell the melting chocolate and roasting nuts from the sidewalk; wafting out of the kitchen, the scent of fresh fudge calls your name. Cheerful music and smiling faces greet you once inside the shop as you browse for a sweet treat or two to taste.
Located in the heart of Downtown Bristol, this is the place to be for decadent fudge and other sweet treats that will have you feeling like a kid again.
Owner Karen Hester has dreamed of opening a sweets shop since she drove an ice cream truck in high school. After years of operating Cranberry Lane, a gift and decor shop, she finally decided to open up The Southern Churn right next door in 2014.
“We equate it to Disneyland,” she said. “There’s a nostalgic look and feel to the store, so you get the feeling of the old-fashioned candy shop.”
It can be hard to know where to start between samples from the counter, ice cream sundaes, milkshakes, and shelf after shelf of candy. But it’s really the homemade fudge that is the star of the show.
Each batch of fudge is made and manufactured right in the Bristol shop before it heads out the door or across the country, something the staff takes great pride in. “We make it with real cream and butter and lots of love,” Hester said. “We are very passionate about the fudge that we make.” Starting with a chocolate or vanilla base, they can craft hundreds of flavors.
The fudge is always fresh as the dedicated bakers churn out classics and experiment with new combinations, sometimes making 20 to 30 batches daily. Traditionalists will find all of their favorites, from dark chocolate sea salt to chocolate walnut fudge, while the more adventurous sweet tooth can find a new flavor depending on the season, including key lime pie, strawberry shortcake, and carrot cake.
After eight years in business, many seasonal flavors now have a loyal following as repeat customers wait for their favorites to come back on the calendar.
One of Hester’s favorites is sold exclusively in the Bristol shop and Hester’s Country Store & Fudgery, located just down the road in Marion, Va.—Mountain Dew fudge. While the bright green color may raise some eyebrows, it only takes one bite to get hooked.
The Southern Churn’s convenient location on State Street makes it easily accessible from all of Bristol’s other amenities, from lodging and restaurants to music and entertainment. Every day, visitors and locals alike follow their nose to the shop’s door.
One of Hester’s favorite things to hear in the store is when someone tastes their fudge and remarks that it’s just like how their grandma used to make it. “The excitement for me is the customer interaction and seeing so many happy folks go out the door,” she said.
Fudge from The Southern Churn is proudly Made in Bristol.