By Anya Vanecek
This issue’s “True Grinnellian” spotlights Roberta See, who owns and operates Candyland Station with her husband, Doug. If you have ideas about a new sundae flavor, drop by Candyland Station—they’d love to hear them!
What inspired Candyland Station?
I love the history side of it all… I love the “Happy Days,” I love the ’50s—it was a happy time in America. So, we try to create that here, a place where people can bring their kids and see what it was like then. There’s a jukebox in the corner … the music then—everyone was so defined. But times have changed; things moved much slower then.
How did Candyland Station begin?
Three years ago, a friend and I looked at the old Cunningham building, but it needed a lot of work. That would have been my wish, to leave it right there because that’s where the original Candyland [later, Cunningham Drug] was. After we looked at it, we realized it was too much work, so we kept looking. When I found out this was on the market, I talked to the agent—he was a Grinnell College graduate who had bought the building—and I thought, “you know, there’s so much history here with the gas station plus Candyland.”
Well, one thing led to another and I walked into an antique store in Newton and there was George’s [the owner of the original Pioneer Station—the former gas station that now houses Candyland] jacket and of course I knew what it was, so I contacted his daughter-in-law and met with her. She put together a book about Candyland and a lot of it really helped me to understand what went on all those years.
During [WWII]… a lot of the military guys went to Candyland. There were three sisters that worked at Candyland back then (their last name was Davenport). One of them was Dorothy and her family found these napkins that one of the military guys—all it says is Private Tad—would draw these flirtatious cartoons on and leave for them. And she saved them for all these years. And you know, all of this history is still so real to people.
One woman said to me, ‘you know, your ice cream is great, but I just love your jukebox!’
Is the menu a throwback too?
I know other places in town have tried to duplicate “The Candyland Sundae” but we have the old recipe from the old Cunningham Drug. We use Ashbury’s ice cream and it’s the best I’ve ever eaten! And of course, they made tuna salad and egg salad the same way I make it today.
Do you have other original Candyland specials?
Our flavors are Chocolate, Strawberry, Vanilla, Amaretto Cherry, Pecan Praline, Pistachio Almond and Cookie Dough. The Garbage salad is also really popular, especially with travelers—we all laugh about the name! We want to bring back the Grinnell College Sundae, but we lost the original recipe! So we want students to come up with ideas—maybe something like the ‘Scarlet and Black’ with strawberries and hot fudge – and then we’ll serve the most popular recipe!