The whimsical world of Marge Crunkleton
Goodies and games galore at the Yummy Stop
She is an exuberant little woman, with salt-and-pepper hair, who would have been perfectly suited to marry Willy Wonka had not Tom knocked on her door by accident and tumbled into her life head-over-heels.
Thus, Marge Crunkleton settled for becoming an entrepreneur of all wares candy-like and whimsical, so little children would gravitate to her store and discover that happiness still can be bought for a penny, and true bliss rarely is more than a quarter.
Crunkleton is 79, but she must have a secret certificate showing that, truthfully, she is about 6.
Crunkleton owns the Yummy Stop on Triangle Circle in Denver, an 11-by-20-foot high-fructose escape just off the corner of N.C. 16 and Unity Church Road, carefully guarded by an 8-foot Raggedy Ann and an entourage of squeaky, yellow rubber ducks. The parking lot is full – a bean-bag tic-tac-toe game here, a ring toss over there, some plastic putters and a bucket of golf balls, kindergarten-sized soda shop tables with brightly painted chairs and 4-foot-tall ice cream cones, in a miscellany of flavors.
But the magic really begins inside.
A clown peddles his bicycle on a tightrope strung along the ceiling. “Marv” stands at the end of the ice cream counter, water and foam running into his soda-shop sink. Dolls from decades past look down from the back corner, and 140 glass jars of candy line the walls. Being of the Ceramic nationality, Marv doesn’t speak much.
But Crunkleton does.
“It’s wonderful to have customers all year long who are 2- and 3-feet tall,” she said while scooping vanilla ice cream into a miniature cone the size of a shot glass. “It’s crazy in here. My husband thinks I’m insane. The children come in, and for some reason, they don’t touch anything. But that’s what it’s for – to touch everything. Children don’t have that now; they’re all into computers and iPods.”
On the floor, beneath the shelf with the Elvis “Love Me Tender” Moisturizing Lotion and the paddle-ball sets and the plastic, daredevil skydivers, a little Elmo dressed in pizza-serving gear stands next to a little pizza-shop-owner guy. When a visitor hits their “on” buttons and adds a few laughing dogs from across the tile, the chorus nearly obliterates the circus music on the stereo.
Glass jars on low shelves overflow with Super Bubble, Milk Duds, Laffy Taffy, Kit-Kat bars, M&Ms, Baby Ruth bars, Butterfingers…
“It has been the most fun thing I’ve ever done,” said Crunkleton, who opens the store on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and has been at this location since October. “I’ve always wanted a place with low counters, where parents aren’t allowed. It’s like it’s an amusement park on the children’s level.”
Behind the ice-cream counter and old-fashioned cash register is a stuffed gorilla wearing a tie that reads “Wild About You.” On another shelf, dolls dressed like old ladies wait to be sold. “Senior chicks,” said Crunkleton, who also is a doll-maker and crafter of mannequin heads, which she sells on eBay.
“I’m a collector of anything and everything, and I’m a doll artist,” she said. “This store is a lot of fun for me. It’s mine, and everything in it is mine. I’m afraid if I open every day, it will turn into a job. But it’s not about making money.
“Everyone talks about a store down the street when they were a kid, where it took 15 minutes to decide how to spend your nickel. So that’s what I’m trying to bring back. What I really want is for children to come home, do their chores around the house, get a quarter and come in and spend it on candy.”
Crunkleton was born in Milwaukee. Growing up she wanted to be an artist, a nurse, a teacher. “Then I decided I wanted to be married more than anything, and I heard that stewardesses always get married within a year,” she said. “So I went on a diet, lost 45 pounds, became a stewardess and was married within a year.”
She was based in Atlanta, with Eastern Airlines, when Tom knocked on her door, mistaking it for someone else’s. She was 23. They were married three months later. He was from Dallas, N.C., and they settled in and raised four children.
“Even then, as a stewardess, it was about the children. I’d sit and talk with them on flights, and I’d let them make the announcements,” she said.
She kept a grasp on her artistic goals and has a website, www.crunk
leton.com, to display her work. She’s owned a few antique stores and candy shops. Before the Yummy Stop, she operated an authentic 1926 ice-cream parlor in Claremont, but she wanted to reduce her drive and stay closer to Denver.
“I figure this is the last store I’ll ever open. This is my swan song,” she said. “You don’t know what life has in store for you. I wanted to do so many things.”
Or as Willy Wonka said, “If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.”
Stop by the shop
The Yummy Stop is at 1763 Triangle Circle, Denver and is open Friday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. until 8-ish. Gift certificates available.
The world according to Marge Crunkleton, 79
On life: “I think there’s too much sophistication around and not enough nonsense. People need some livening up.”
On her tendency to talk a bit: “Someone said once that I’m a reporter’s dream because every time I open my mouth, I give an interview.”
On her determination: “I never think I can’t do anything. If you’re doing it and having a good time, you’re not wasting your time.”
On being a stewardess: “You’d just have to sit and visit with people and see who was good-looking. And report to the pilot and tell him who was pretty out there.”
On her husband: “He’s always giving me space because he knows I’m a little outside the box.”
On getting old: “People think something happens to you when you get old. Well, nothing happens. If you were a dud at 35, you’ll be a dud at 75.”