Free (or Cheap) Fun in Southlake, Texas
Indulge a sweet tooth and some childish fun at the city's Town Square.
Owner Chad Thames and his staff offer some unique treats at Le' Popcorn and Candy Shop in Southlake Town Square.photography by Ryan Jones
The best suburbs of Dallas are clearly great places to live, but should you want to visit them? D Magazine online editorial intern Ryan Jones was dispatched to make a day of it in each of our top-ranked cities.The challenge: he’s got only $5 at his disposal. He's already explored Parker, Highland Village, and Colleyville. Now it's time for Southlake, No. 4 in our 2010 rankings.
Southlake has developed a reputation as North Texas’ answer to Pleasantville. There’s not much this suburb of almost 27,000 lacks – good schools, great extra-curriculars, extravagant homes, and plenty of shopping. If you’re looking to get close to nature, your best bet is to find the Bob Jones Nature Center, but the city really revolves around Southlake Town Square. This huge development with nearly 100 stores quickly pulled me into its orbit.
My first stop was Le’ Popcorn and Candy, a little locally-owned confectionery shop. Bright green walls frame shelves lined with apothecary jars, in which you’ll find old favorites like NECCO Wafers, Hershey’s bars, and rainbow lollipops. There’s also an array of unique treats, including my favorite: candy Legos.
“My son taught me that if you lick them before you put them together, they’ll stick,” says owner Chad Thames. Thames runs the store with his wife, Elizabeth, and the couple opened shop a few days before Christmas. They focus on stocking nostalgic and hard-to-find candies for the sweet teeth among us.
But the specialty at Le’ Popcorn is, of course, the popcorn. Made in store daily, there are more than 50 flavors to choose from, starting with basics like buttery and low-salt, and working all the way up to specialty popcorns like Oreo cookie and peanut butter and chocolate — otherwise known as “the reason for my impending heart attack.” Though it’s hard to mess up the age-old combo of peanut butter and chocolate, when you add the snack-factor of popcorn to the equation, you can down an entire bag and slip into the euphoric, sugar-induced haze that follows without even realizing what happened.
Less decadent flavors like salt and vinegar, jalapeno ranch, and fan-favorite dill pickle are $2.25 for a mini bag, which is the perfect size for shop-snacking. And if you’re overwhelmed by the options, they’re more than happy to hand out a few free samples.
I left Le’ Popcorn with a mini bag of my own, and made my way to another nostalgia-inducing spot, the Owl’s Nest Toy Shop. Owner Sandy Challinor has run her store for eight years, constantly updating her inventory to keep up with the latest craze (which, she tells me, is currently something called Silly Bandz). When you set foot in the shop, there’s a noticeable divide: action figures and plastic trucks are to the left (the boys section), while dolls and pretty pink things are to the right (the girls section). There’s even a small circle of wood flooring in the center of the room, where kids can hop on a handful of wheeled contraptions and go for a joyride.
The Owl's Nest Toy Shop is a great place to feel like a kid again.
My attention was quickly drawn to a rack of cheap goodies that resemble the 10-ticket-and-under prizes at Chuck E. Cheese. Colorful bouncy balls, rubber ducks, and fortune-teller fish intermingle in a way that suggests overambitious kids (or overwhelmed parents) returned the toys hastily without bothering to find the proper compartments. Nothing carries a price tag over a few dollars in this section, and a second rack by the cash register carries similarly cheap goods with a decidedly older feel.
I was lured in by the simplicity of an old standby, the paddleball, and its convincing slogan (“It’s fun!”), so I doled out $3.99 at the register. And then I headed back out into the sea of stores in Southlake Town Square. Armed with greasy, chocolate popcorn fingers, the constant thunk of my paddleball, and not a dollar left to spend, I was poised to become the most obnoxious shopper these stores had ever seen.