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Rhinelander candy shop offers extra sweet service

Alongside traditional concoctions, Fun Factory Sweet Shoppe also offers a gelato catering service

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March 4, 2024

RHINELANDER – When it comes to business, there is something truly sweet in the works at Fun Factory Sweet Shoppe.

In addition to traditional candy offerings, the shop, located at 229 N. Brown St. in Rhinelander, now offers a gelato catering service – meant for weddings and other special events.

“Gelato cart catering is by far the fastest growing segment of our business,” George Rouman, owner of Fun Factory Sweet Shoppe, said.

Rouman said the shop has always been a part of the wedding industry in some ways, by offering candy and chocolate for couples’ special days.

However, he said he has seen a recent trend of couples moving away from traditional wedding elements and bringing in different dessert elements – and even experiences – which gave him the idea of starting a gelato bar.

Though the event cart is new, Rouman said Fun Factory Sweet Shoppe has been making gelato for nearly 20 years.

“We’ve been making gelato since 2005 and decided to bring this product to a wedding show as a test,” he said. “It was an immediate hit.”

Rouman said in 2023, the gelato bar was featured at more than 150 weddings and events statewide.

“Not only does gelato add a unique food element to the wedding or event, but since we also provide the server, it creates an entire experience where guests can interact and sample various flavors,” he said.

Rouman said the success of the traveling gelato bar led to the idea of offering popcorn snack bars as well, which he said are typically used during cocktail hour.

“It’s trendy right now,” he said. “We can provide gelato cart catering or popcorn snack bars for weddings and events. All products are created fresh every time.”

Offering numerous treats

Rouman said the candy shop – which originally opened in 1980 – has a blended business history.

He said it is now part of the Rouman Amusement Company, which also owns the local movie theaters. 

“My family has been in business in the Rhinelander area since 1921,” he said. “I took over ownership of The Fun Factory Sweet Shoppe in 2005.”

The offerings at the old-fashioned candy store, Rouman said, are plentiful – including hand-dipped chocolate, fresh fudge and an assortment of gourmet popcorn.

“There are hundreds of various products we offer and can create, even thousands,” he said.

Counting the options available, Rouman said, is nearly impossible because items can be customized to create different versions.

“We can put any candy – M&M, Oreo or Butterfinger – into chocolate to create a bar, pretzel or marshmallow,” he said. “Then if we change the chocolate type from milk to dark or white, you can multiply each variety again.”

Rouman said the store’s specialty is the mint meltaway.

“It’s a refreshing, timeless classic made with premium ingredients and dipped by hand,” he said.

Other fan favorites, Rouman said, include chocolate meltaways, sea salt caramels and turtles.

Being located in Rhinelander, Rouman said, means Fun Factory Sweet Shoppe plays into its Hodag lore.

“We often refer to ourselves as ‘The Home of the Chocolate Hodag’ because when there’s such a prominent local legend, it’s fun to lean into,” he said. 

Rouman said the Hodag is a half-pound of solid chocolate.

Other Hodag-themed options include paws (giant turtles), Hodag tails (caramel and chocolate-covered pretzel rods), Hodag mix popcorn and Hodag tracks fudge.

“Our solid chocolate Hodag medallions have even been used as prize medals,” Rouman said.

He said the shop also carries retro novelty candy and hard-to-find international candies.

Recently, Rouman said he has seen significant growth with Fun Factory’s sugar-free and reduced-sugar options.

“There’s so much attention on health and wellness now, and it’s led us to offer these types of products for those who are unable to have sugar or need to limit their consumption,” he said.

When customers enter the store, Rouman said they can expect a friendly greeting, a chocolate smell, the promise of exceptional, personalized service “and also samples, (of course).”

Lessons in perseverance, change

Despite successfully operating for years, like many other businesses, Rouman said the shop faced some unexpected hurdles due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It was the major tipping point for us,” he said. “We had to immediately react and find a way for our business to survive.”

With Easter – a busy holiday for the shop – on its way, the owner said he and his staff had to change operating procedures.

“Most of the products – chocolate bunnies, baskets, eggs – were already created,” he said. “We were faced with the real possibility of a total financial catastrophe if we remained closed for a while and these items were not sold.”

Since the majority of Fun Factory Sweet Shoppe’s sales were previously in-store, Rouman said the shop’s team responded by “expanding our website and building a stronger online presence.”

He said staff worked diligently to answer phone calls, emails and social media messages and were able to arrange curbside pickup or shipping for orders. 

Thanks for these pivots, Rouman said the shop had achieved its “best-ever sales totals during Easter.”

“The experience taught us the value of personalized service and showed us the way forward,” he said. “Nearly four years later, our largest areas of growth are now from online sales.”

Business expansion

Since the pandemic, Rouman said he continues to lean heavily on the lessons he learned, and it continues to inspire him to grow his business.

“We anticipate a significant increase in our production capacity within five years, but not at the risk of losing quality,” he said. 

As a small business, Rouman said the staff prides itself on offering direct customer service and creating treats through small-batch production.

“We’ll continue to operate that way while searching for new ways to strengthen our brand,” he said.

One way Rouman said he plans to grow the shop is through collaboration. 

“We’re collaborating on some new business partnerships to extend our exposure,” he said.

New recipes and products are also introduced throughout the year, which Roman said is an exciting opportunity for customers to try new flavors and to find gifts.

“Most recently, we came up with a Gelato Advent Calendar Box for the holidays,” he said. 

The Fun Factory Sweet Shoppe also offers fundraising options.

“For fundraising, we’ve developed a nationwide network to help schools and nonprofit groups raise money using our fresh fudge and specialty flavored popcorn,” Rouman said.

The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.

Visit to learn more. 

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