Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the “Best of Bainbridge” special section. The Readers Choice Awards publication was included in the Aug. 26 edition of the Bainbridge Review.
Locals know that when they’re walking along Winslow Way, they need to stop at Bon Bon and take a look at the windows.
“I’m very aware of my windows because we’re right in the middle of downtown,” said Lisa Wangen, owner of Bon Bon candy store. “I like to change them often – once or twice a month.”
Bon Bon candy store was voted Best Of Bainbridge Island for its colorful and ever-changing windows. Wangen creates the designs herself.
“In high school, I started working at Nordstrom’s and I helped do the window displays,” she said. “I worked alongside their creative person. And I’ve always loved art. I used to paint. So I guess this is my way to be creative.”
But her work in retail started long before that, when she helped her father who owned a health food store in Anchorage, Alaska.
“We’d get things like raisins in bulk and I’d package them in smaller portions,” she said. “From that point on, I knew I wanted to have my own store someday.”
After moving to Seattle and working at Nordstrom’s for 15 years, and being a stay-at-home mom, the family relocated to Bainbridge Island. She began looking for the candy store and found there wasn’t one.
“I’d take my kids to the library and then the candy store,” she said. “That was our outing. But when I got here, I asked and people told me there was no candy store in town. So I started researching the candy industry and wrote a business plan.”
The first bank she went to, to get a business loan, told her a candy store would never work on Bainbridge.
“They said Bainbridge was too healthy,” Wangen said. “But the second bank said “yes.”
She opened the store in January of 2007, in its first location, on Bjune Drive. The store moved to its current location at 230 Winslow Way four years ago, just after the Easter holiday candy rush.
Every season is different, as to what’s most popular. But the store’s homemade fudge is always a big seller.
“When we started, I made all the fudge,” she said. “But I’d be up at 3 a.m. doing that. So now, I make some and I have a local mom who makes it, too.”
Dark chocolate-sea salt is the top seller. A new flavor, butterscotch-salted caramel, is gaining in popularity.
“We are always trying new flavors,” she said. “This summer, watermelon and sour lemon seem to be big hits.”
At Christmas time, she sells more than 700 pounds of fudge ordered online and sent out by mail. In all, she buys her candy from 30 different vendors and stocks locally made items and candy from elsewhere.
“Our (Pink Peony brand) truffles are local and so is the Bainbridge Brittle,” she said. “And we buy chocolate from Seattle makers like Theo’s. But we also have chocolates from all over Europe.”
The most expensive chocolate bar in the store is $18 and “should be thought of like fine wine,” she added.
She has a large selection of nostalgic candy, including Necco’s, Moon Pies, Ice Cubes, and Gold Mine gum.
“I just love it when people come in here and see the old candy and say ‘Oh, I had that when I was young.’ I know it brings back good memories of when they were kids.”
She also has a section of licorice, taffy, lollipops, gummies, and organic hard candy. And there’s a section of sugar-free candy, too.
Wangen admits that she’s fussy about appearances. She likes a neat, clean store and she wants every box of candy that goes out the door to be properly packaged.
“My staff knows that they have to cut the fudge a specific way, and that the ribbon on the box needs to be right and that the store logo sticker has to be straight,” she said. “I’m very into presentation.”
She also won’t sell anything before she tastes it.
“I’m a runner, so I work off the sugar that way,” she said. She currently has 13 employees.
As for the windows, her favorites to do are her Christmas holiday scenes. Themes include gingerbread houses and The Nutcracker. But she won’t put out a holiday window more than a month before the holiday.