Talking with Candyality owner/founder Terese McDonald is a fascinating journeynot just about the world of sweets, but also about subjects such as politics and fashion.
That's because McDonald's life has been involved in those areas, and a talk with her is as likely to result in mentions of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent as well as Laffy Taffy and jelly beans.
McDonald obtained a degree in political science at Eastern Illinois University and eventually found herself in the beauty/fashion industry, working at such places as YSL Beaute, named after Laurent.
"I worked for Jim Thompson when he was governor of Illinois," McDonald told Windy City Times. "It lasted about a year and a half, and I had to run out of Springfield. It was an eye-opening experience. I thought I was going to change the world." But would she ever run for office? "I don't think so. You have to put all of yourself out there, and then there are the critiques," she replied. "If I did, it certainly wouldn't be about the money."
However, the astute McDonald is likely to give you her opinion on a variety of topics and people, including President Trump, the Kardashians and local newspapers ( being an advocate of independent publications ). "I have an expanse beyond candy," she said with a laugh.
Then, she added, "I spent almost 25 years in the beauty industry. I got a job and I loved it, and I worked my way up to being vice president of sales development at Yves Saint Laurent. I traveled around the country and to Europe quite a bitit was kind of Devil Wears Prada, but my Miranda Priestley wasn't as bad as the [Meryl Streep in the movie].
"So I wrote training modules, and I would take cues from everyday lifeand one day I was inspired by candy," McDonald continued. "And I wrote one on candy and personality [a cornerstone of Candyality, which conflates 'candy' and 'personality']. … In 2007, I was asked to move to New York. I didn't want to, and decided to do something different. I always wanted a store in Chicago. I originally thought about opening an apothecary, but I kept going back to candy. Chicago is deeply rooted in candy, [starting] with the turn of the [20th] centuryand it's still called the candy capital of the world."
The original Candyality location was at the corner of Newport and Southport avenues, McDonald said. "We were there for six years [starting in 2007], and then we moved down to the hardware store, and they built a space for us," she added. Candyality now has three locations: in Andersonville, in Lake View and at Water Tower Place.
When asked if candy is actually connected to personality, McDonald said, "We're more like Willy Wonka than Albert Einstein. It's not based on science, but it's very well thought outand people tell us what we say is true. It's a different way to buy candy."
Switching to another facet, McDonald said, "There are so many aspects to running a store. I had to teach myselfso many different variables, even when ordering." When the 2008 recession hit, she said it was a scary time, but "things were settling outand then the New York Times called in February 2009, saying it was doing a story on candy stores and the recession. I talked about how people saw it was a small indulgence. It was only, like, 40 words in the Times, but that was my tipping point, really. It got so many people so interested."
Candyality has a huge selection of retro candies, but there are many other offerings as well. "We're known for our licorice bar as well," McDonald said. "It speaks to my dad, who was a huge licorice fan." However, there are also all sorts of chocolate treats, cotton candy and even popcorn mixes.
Interestingly, although Candyality has a website, McDonald said she feels "we have to stop people from using the internet. Local people don't necessarily shop locally; people don't go out and experience anything anymore. They're not getting that tactile experienceand candy is very tactile.
"I love candy, but what I love more is seeing how people interact with it," McDonald said. "I love the impact candy can have on people's lives."
See candyality.com/ .