Madison Fudge Factory &
Guest Suites owner Jim Grant isnt 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 Madisons 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 peoples 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. Hes full of jokes
and stories and likes to talk with tourists about Madison.
He also likes to hand out fudge samples.
by Don Ward
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, Grants 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 childs
dream toy. Willie Wonka he is not, but he is the closest thing to it in
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
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 Grants antics, it came as no
surprise that in May he was awarded one of 18 statewide Indiana Hospitality
Awards by Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman.
by Don Ward
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 youre 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 states 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 towns 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
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 states 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
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout.
Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: Don@RoundAboutMadison.com.