Sugar shack 

Squeak Soda Shop will take you to Candyland

It was bedtime when I pulled a jawbreaker out of my cheek, carefully wrapped it in a tissue and placed it in my nightstand. Days later, I rediscovered and attempted to unwrap it. When that failed, I did what any self-respecting 9-year-old would do: I popped that furry ball of sugar in my mouth and spent the next half-hour pulling lint off my tongue.

I'd forgotten that scene from childhood until I strolled into Squeak Soda Shop.

Squeak takes you back to when all you cared about were sweet, creamy and fizzy things. The sugar mecca is the brainchild of "head soda jerk" Joey Suntken. A Coronado High School graduate, Suntken, now 40, went to grad school at Georgetown before working for the likes of Procter & Gamble and Gerber. But after his father's passing four years ago, he took stock: In another 20 years, would he want to be an executive VP who'd never done anything on his own?

With a growing family that now includes three young daughters, Suntken returned to the Springs and began developing Squeak. Merging the iconic soda fountain of the 1950s with nostalgic candies and a few modern notes, he opened the vibrant, colorful space in early July.

Upon entering the Rockrimmon shop, stocked with a Nintendo Wii and board games like Monopoly, Operation and Battleship, I imagined Gene Wilder singing "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Suntken had asked muralist Tricia Smith of Victor-based Shiner Dog Studio to think Wonka meets Seuss, and what she produced is dead-on.

Pop Rocks, Laffy Taffy and wax bottles and lips sit among the 50-some, old-time candies lining the wall, available by the box or pound. And yes, Suntken does have jawbreakers. But it's on the soda side that things get even more fun.

Head to the "olfactory station" and sniff more than 50 flavors of soda, from Grandma's Apple Pie to pumpkin pie, from black cherry to black licorice. Once you've picked your poison, you can drink it as is or add food coloring for amusement. Or, you can make a float ($2.79 to $3.72 currently; prices may increase soon due to climbing sugar prices) using one of Squeak's 20-plus ice creams, all Colorado-sourced.

The sodas, made with pure cane sugar or Splenda instead of high-fructose corn syrup, are fresh and extremely crisp. For us, a vanilla ice cream and watermelon soda, and a Colorado peach ice cream with peach soda stood out.

I couldn't resist a cucumber soda ($1.63), but I wished I'd had passed on sweetening it, as the sugar eclipsed the refreshing cucumber essence.

Squeak also offers the aforementioned flavors in milk ($2.09 to $3.03), and there are also soft pretzels and delicious real-cheese grilled cheese sandwiches served with a side of movie-theater-style popcorn ($3.26 to $4.42) for savory options.

Suntken, who's writing a book of "Squeak oaths" (positive sayings) illustrated by Smith, hopes one day to have 20 stores in Colorado. He also continues to create new flavors and invite candy suggestions.

Yet when I asked about a hazelnut chocolate from my past, he shook his head. With a daughter with severe nut allergies, he's drawn a line at Squeak: You can go crazy, but not nuts.


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