Still sweet, after all these years

Bunny after chocolate bunny, Log Cabin pours it on

October 22, 2006|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,Special to The Sun

Bernard Rudell earned $30 a week in the 1940s making pieces of chocolate, when the average wage-earner made only $15.

Eventually he began selling chocolates on the side, launching his candy-making repertoire with chocolate Easter bunnies. He would make enough bunnies to fill a table that he was setting up on a street corner in front of his father's jewelry store. The bunnies were an instant hit, said Bernard's wife Edna Rudell.

"He sold everything he made," said the 84-year-old Jacksonville resident.

More than 60-years after making his first bunny, Bernard's candy shop, Log Cabin Candies, on Bel Air Road in Fallston, is still thriving. Rudell died years ago, and his wife, Edna, 84, and son Richard, who are partners in the business, are making more than 85 types of chocolates, producing as many 70,000 pieces of chocolate a day and making candies for fundraisers to benefit more than 100 local organizations.

As Richard recalled, his father was enticed by those gaudy wages in the 1940s: "He told us that if he was being paid $30 a week, there must be a lot of money in it."

The business started out with Easter bunnies of varying shapes and sizes, and Bernard Rudell was selling enough that he quickly outgrew the table on the street corner. From there he moved into a small store in a shopping center, with Easter bunnies as the featured item.

Business boomed, and again Rudell quickly outgrew the space. About that time, the proprietor of Log Cabin Candies, who owned and operated five locations in the area, was trying to get out of the business.

After purchasing the machinery and the candy name about 1950, Rudell opened for business in 1951 in a small shop in Baynesville.

In addition to the bunnies, he was chocolate pieces.

Nowadays, the flavors of chocolate candies range from the traditional caramel and nut clusters to specialty chocolate peanut butter items.

Rudell remained at the Baynesville location until 1961, when he moved to the store's current location in Fallston.

And although he acquired some of the recipes from the previous owner, many of the recipes are original, said Richard Rudell.

"I've refined recipes from Log Cabin's 1920s candies," said the 49-year-old Baldwin resident. "Over the years, I think we've made the candies the best that they can be."

It didn't happen overnight, he said.

"There's a science to candy making," said Richard. "You have to learn the chemistry of it to do it well."

And Richard started from the ground up. Well, almost.

As a 6-year-old, Richard began working at the Log Cabin Candies shop weighing jelly beans and putting them into bags. By the time he turned 10, he and his brother Bernie were making chocolate Easter eggs and bunnies on their own.

They continued making chocolate throughout high school, bringing their school friends to the store on weekends, where they made hundreds of pounds of chocolate bunnies -from 6 inches to 3 feet tall.

Upon completing high school, Richard Rudell enrolled at Harford Community College to pursue a degree in criminal justice.

"I was born into the chocolate-making business, but I didn't want any part of it," he said.

That changed halfway through college, when his father's full-time candy maker passed away.

"My dad didn't know how he was going make the candy and run the business all by himself," said Richard Rudell. "So since I had worked in the store as a boy, I decided that I could do it. I figured one piece in the box, one piece in my mouth. It might be fun."

And other than closing the retail store in the summer - for fishing, he said jokingly - he's been there ever since.

The busiest seasons at the store are Easter, followed by Christmas and Valentine's Day, he said.

"And the Easter bunnies are still the biggest-selling items," Richard said. But not everything stayed the same at the shop after Richard started working for his father.

For starters, Richard wanted to make the chocolate the best that he could, which prompted him to join a retail confectioners' group and attend an intensive three-week chocolate-making school.

The more he learns, the better his chocolate tastes, he said.

He said he often gets calls from people who were referred to him by other customers. Some commission him to make party or wedding favors, animals and other chocolate figures.

He recently completed party favors for a banquet held at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

"I made a mold of the company's bomb-shaped insignia and made chocolates of it," said Richard.

The Rudells also cater to non-profits such as the Elvis Fever Fan Club based in Baltimore, which started selling the candies in 1982 for their fundraisers benefiting the Children's Cancer Fund.

"The chocolates at Log Cabin Candies beat any candies around," said 71-year-old Ann Meyers of Baltimore, who is the president of the fan club. "It's not overly sweet. And once people buy it for our fundraisers, they become repeat customers because they like it so much."

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