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Trumpeting Tourism

Grant’s unusual style attracts attention,
state Hospitality Award

Madison’s ‘fudge man’
popular among residents, tourists

 

 

(June 2005)

Read previous Don Ward columns!
Don Ward

Madison Fudge Factory & Guest Suites owner Jim Grant isn’t your typical business owner. This former sales professional from California goes beyond the normal daily business activities: He places flags and banners across the front of his building on Madison’s West Main Street and adorns the street corner with all sorts of whirlygigs, gizmos and thingamajigs.
Perhaps he is best known for his penchant for pedaling around town on his three-wheeled “chariot,” officially called a binje, which is from Indonesia, he explains. When Grant sets off on his binje, he sometimes dons an “old man” mask “just to see people’s reactions.”
On lazy summer afternoons, Grant pedals his fun machine down to the Madison riverfront, where he greets passengers as they disembark from the Delta Queen, Mississippi Queen or American Queen steamboats.
He hands out brochures and maps of Madison, helping tourists find their way to Main Street area shops and restaurants. He’s full of jokes and stories and likes to talk with tourists about Madison.
He also likes to hand out fudge samples.

1971 Miss Madison Team

Photo by Don Ward

Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman (second from right) visited Madison on May 12 to present the Jefferson County Hospitality Award to Dave Adams (far right) and honor Jim Grant (in back, far right) for winning a state Hospitality Award. Others pictured are (from left) Madison Mayor Al Huntington and Jefferson County award nominees Tony Steinhardt, Bob Cline and Deana Williams.

Grant is notorious around town as “the fudge man.” He started out making a half-dozen flavors on site, but the business quickly outgrew his kitchen. Now the fudge is shipped overnight from central Illinois, enabling him to offer more than 50 different flavors at his “fudge factory.” He plans to make fudge again in Madison when the Food Venture commercial kitchen opens sometime next year.
For now, Grant’s fudge counter is located in the back of his Madison Toys and Trains store, which is crammed packed with gift items, educational toys, puzzles, wooden trains, kites and just about any other child’s dream toy. Willie Wonka he is not, but he is the closest thing to it in Madison.
“I also have recently expanded to sell Madison-made salsas, jams and jellies, and barbecue sauces,” said Grant, 55, a divorced father of two college-aged children, Michelle, 28, and David, 26. They both live in San Franciso, Calif., where they attend college at San Francisco State University.
Grant spent several years living and raising his children in Madison in the late 1980s when he worked as a sales manager for Dutch Growers’ Midwest greenhouses. He later returned to California, where he worked as a national sales manager for a furniture and gifts company.
Following his divorce, Grant moved back to the Midwest in 2000 and bought the building that now houses his entrepreneurial enterprises, which include a seven-unit bed and breakfast. He rents the units to guests and is especially busy in summer months and on festival weekends. Grant has to get up early and make breakfast for his guests before heading outside to start setting up his storefront decorations for the day.
He also spent the past winter months working as a part-time business consultant for the Southeast Indiana Small Business Development Center. He is also involved in the local Boys and Girls Clubs, and the local chapter of Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
To Madison residents familiar with Grant’s antics, it came as no surprise that in May he was awarded one of 18 statewide Indiana Hospitality Awards by Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman.

1971 Miss Madison Team

Photo by Don Ward

Unmasked: Jim Grant is a well-known fixture on West Main Street in Madison.

Held in conjunction with “Enjoy Indiana Week,” a statewide celebration of tourism, the Indiana Office of Tourism Development presents the awards annually to individuals in the hospitality and tourism industries who exemplify Hoosier hospitality.
“Going out of your way to assist guests leaves such an incredible impression on visitors to our state, whether you’re guiding people on an historic tour, providing directions to an attraction in your community, or creating a meal with sincerity and kindness,” Skillman said in announcing the award. “Your actions speak louder than any positive thing we could say about our attractions, hotels and restaurants.”
Grant traveled to Indianapolis to receive his award. But Skillman, who has oversight of the state’s tourism efforts, visited Madison on May 12 to honor Grant, tour the city on the Madison Trolley and to announce the Jefferson County Hospitality Award winner: Dave Adams, a city councilman and one of the town’s other well-known boosters.
Adams beat out an impressive list of nominees with his upbeat spirit, his guided tours that he volunteers to guests, and his almost-contagious promotion of downtown. Other nominees included Grant; Deana Williams of the Main Street Antique Mall; Tony Steinhardt of Steinhardt Heating & Air Conditioning; Kathy Ayers of Windy Hill Bed & Breakfast who also serves as Madison Ribberfest director; and Bob Cline, who operates the website, www.madisoncamerunning.com.
The tourism industry brings in nearly $7 billion annually to Indiana, state officials said. Nearly 94,000 Hoosiers are employed by tourism-related businesses. The state’s Hoosier Hospitality Award winners are nominated by those involved in tourism in each individual community. State officials then evaluate the nominations and choose the recipients.
Grant seems an obvious choice. Besides, that homemade fudge is hard to resist.

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: Don@RoundAboutMadison.com.

 

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