Anyone with even a minor-league sweet tooth who passes within a mile or so of the Rocking Chair Candy Emporium in Orange had better be ready to be drawn toward the place by some sort of mysterious, sugary gravitational pull.
Open the door, and you're as good as trapped for at least a half-hour--or however long it takes you to stock up on a sackful of penny candy, pound down a sundae and inhale several dozen lungs full of air redolent with the smell of sweet edibles.
The emporium looks like an Advent calendar with Milk Duds. It's a kind of Mad Hatter's palace where antique Christmas cards exist side by side with Betty Boop T-shirts and pineapple-shaped rubber coolers for soft-drink cans. It's an almost overwhelming collection of seemingly unrelated items that somehow belong together in precisely the surroundings they're in.
Want a Dionne quintuplets cutout paper-doll book to go with your chocolate soda? Or a dashboard sun shield with the face of W.C. Fields printed on it to go with your turkey on rye? Deena Zachritz or one of her staff can serve it all up.
Zachritz, the proprietor, opened the emporium in Orange's antique district about 4 years ago, relying for a good part of her trade on the soda fountain and the steady sales of restored antique rocking chairs.
"Originally," she said, "we sold about 20 of those rockers a month, no problem, mostly to pregnant ladies. Oh, my, they'd line up for them."
But, she said, the rockers are becoming harder to obtain, and restoring them properly takes longer. Consequently, the Rocking Chair Candy Emporium is today less a rocking-chair shop and much more an emporium (the dictionary definition of which is "a large store with a wide variety of things for sale").
With the installation of the soda fountain--made of gray-and-white marble, with large, pink-paisley stools and a wide wall mirror behind the counter--Zachritz painted the walls in the colors of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream. White-lattice trim and a picket-fence design were installed around the edge of the loft room where the rocking chairs are displayed. And, just last month, a deli counter was opened in the back of the store.
Unlike some other specialty stores in the Orange Plaza area, "we wanted something to be selling here all the time," she said. "It's ice cream in the summer, Christmas cards and gifts at that time of year and candy all the time. Particularly at the fountain, it's standing room only on summer weekends."
The emporium is particularly known for its animated or pop-up greeting cards, its collection of Betty Boop trinkets and its display of antique hat pins for sale, Zachritz said.
The deli offers fare with basic names, but at the fountain customers can order a Young Republican sundae ("rich, but conservative") or an Old Newspaper Joke sundae ("what's black and white and read all over?"--chocolate ice cream, strawberry topping and whipped cream).
The Rocking Chair Candy Emporium is no place to start a diet. But it's also no place for the one-dimensional mind. Where else can you pick up a turkey croissant sandwich and a plastic gorilla face that growls at the press of a button?
THE ROCKING CHAIR CANDY EMPORIUM AT A GLANCE Where: 123 N. Glassell St., Orange.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
Information: (714) 633-5725.