Occupation: Co-owner, with her husband
Where: The Candy Box, 1947 Winnebago St.
Why you should go: For rainbow-colored rock candy, candy cigs, wax lips, licorice pipes, chocolate voodoo dolls, chocolate-covered, cayenne-fired espresso beans, luscious pastries and Thompson's extraordinary rapport with her sweets-savvy customers.
Were you a teenage candy addict?
Absolutely! When I was growing up in Chicago, my mother had a grocery and candy store. I grew up loving candy. You want to get me to clean up? Give me my inoculations? Give me candy!
I'm still a candy addict. I worked in industrial engineering for many years. I wasn't great at it - I wasn't going to be the next Einstein. I was just a woman good at math and science. I'd always loved to travel, so I opened an adventure travel company for women. It did really well till Sept. 11.
In the back of my mind, I'd always wanted a bed and breakfast with a café, so I bought a building in Chicago in a neighborhood that was starting to gentrify. But rehabilitating the building was expensive. Eventually the cost overruns got so high my husband, who's an engineer working in Madison, said, "Look, you got me into debt! Get a real job! It better be in town, and it better be the tiniest place you can find!"
I'd been going to candy fairs. I was going to have a candy shop in the restaurant at my bed and breakfast. So, my hunt for a candy store in Madison began. I found this place by looking for kid decorations. You know, the craziest Halloween pumpkins, the best Christmas ornaments. This neighborhood looked perfect. I knew eventually I'd add a café for grownups, with wonderful pastries, so I counted the cars going by at breakfast time. Some people call it market research. I call it doing what you have to do.
The Candy Box opened in April, 2005, and I just added pastries, coffee and ice cream this June. Finally, I've got indoor seating for seven. And we're open at night now for elegant desserts and coffee drinks. No laptops after 7 p.m., though - this is a social place, not a coffee shop.
Who are your favorite customers?
People always say, "Wow, what a great shop for kids." Kids are used to buying pre-packaged candy at convenience or grocery stores. They tell me they like being able to ask me questions. They learn how to think about candy and how to choose. Often, they're buying a gift for an adult - Dad, Mom, grandparents.
But more than half my customers are adults. They eat even more candy than kids. Kids love candies that do things, like crackle and pop - and ones that challenge them, like huge jawbreakers. Adults are looking for memories. They'll come in for a few sophisticated chocolates, but they're always inspired by feel-good retro stuff like Valomilk bars, or Walnettos. They say, "Oooo, I had this when I was growing up" - and they start talking about family, places and friends.
It's all good. I love the adults as much as the kids, 'cause nobody stays in a bad mood too long in here.