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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: The Aroma Labs

Courtesy The Aroma Labs

For fifteen years, Tanya Thompson mixed cocktails and poured drinks for customers. Then the long-time bartender turned to a different kind of "mixology."

Thompson opened The Aroma Labs in the Park Trades Center in downtown Kalamazoo and now helps customers create their own signature scents. She's trained in such places as Paris, France, and in Chicago, finessing her ability to create a fragrance like no other.

“It’s mixology in a different way,” Thompson says. “I’m still working with customers and making them happy. Blending together fragrances is similar to making a Fussy Martini.”

A conversation with Tanya Thompson

Thompson says customers come into The Aroma Labs and are guided through a variety of scents, choosing favorites and blending them together to find their signature scent. That can then used in perfume but also soap, candles, bath scrubs, lotions, and even car air fresheners. The scent can then be saved to mix again and again.

Thompson groups basic scents into categories: florals, flavors, citrus, nature or woody.

Credit Courtesy The Aroma Labs
Courtesy The Aroma Labs
The Aroma Labs studio in the Park Trades Center

“I’ve always had a stronger sense of smell, being able to distinguish different things,” Thompson says. “It’s about working with the aromas and recalling the memories. Our sense of smell is connected to memories, so you’re basically putting a smell into your memory bank. Smell connects to our emotions and our moods.”

She says the same fragrance can trigger different reactions in different people. Fragrances can also smell different when applied to different people.

“It’s all personal preference,” she says. “What smells good to you may not smell good to me. The older generation tends to go for florals, or maybe the citrus or woody, while the younger generation loves the sweet smells. When it comes to what smells different on different people, it’s about our body chemistry. It’s how much do you sweat, how much fat do you have on your body, how much water do you drink, what kinds of foods do you eat. It’s all a science.”

To keep customers and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, Thompson accepts appointments so customers can come in one at a time, or one group at a time. Appointments can be made by calling The Aroma Labs at 269.532.3339 or emailing hello (at) thearomalabs (dot) com.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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