A warm breeze tugged at the black and white and sepia-toned photos in Deidra Tuggle’s hands. The smell of decaying paper and sugar briefly seasoned the air as she pointed to images of her family in what used to be called the Royal Inn Sundry.
They call her The Candy Lady.
On an average afternoon in Orange Mound, children on their way home from school walk up to Tuggle’s porch and form a line at the door. Others wear backpacks as they step out of their parent’s cars or ride bikes into the yard, money in hand.
Deidra Tuggle, the Candy Lady of Orange Mound, serves up a nacho plate in her kitchen for her after school customers.
Inside Tuggle's 100-year-old home, the pink walls are lined with candy, drinks, cookies, snow cone syrups of varying flavors, and chips, all of which is sold for no more than one dollar each. In the kitchen is nacho cheese, jalapenos, and ice cream sandwiches.
Located at the corner of Carnes and Cella street, beside the Landmark Farmers Market and across from an auto-repair shop, the old sundry store is attached to Tuggle's home and is now used for additional living space.
It is a remnant of what was a bustling street of business in the Orange Mound community.
Royal Inn Sundry was owned by William Crawford, Tuggle’s grandfather, and once served as a post office and pharmacy. Her grandfather sold snacks and goods at the same property where Tuggle serves neighborhood children.
The obituary of William Crawford, Deidra Tuggle's grandfather. Crawford started a sundry store in Orange Mound which over the years has turned into a candy and snack business serving children after school.
“I remember my family working in there and as a child having to stay out of the way because my grandmother was cooking and baking in the kitchen,” she said. “But, if it got too busy we had to come out here in the yard.”
Among her loyal following are children that attend Hanley Elementary school. Parents that once purchased from her mother also bring their children by to patronize. The young customers are familiar with Tuggle’s products and line up outside of her door to order snacks. They do not enter her home. Candy wrappers and potato chip bags are among items displayed in her window for the kids to choose what they would like to eat.
One customer asks for Cheetos Flamin Hot Chips and nacho cheese topped with jalapenos. As Tuggle fills up a paper bowl with the order, she talks about her grandfather’s sundry store. She said it “had everything you could think of,” including cleaning products, cigars, feminine products and baby powder. People could also buy ice cream, sodas, hamburgers, homemade cakes and pies and play games on pin ball machines.
William Crawford and his wife Martha at the sundry store they opened in Orange Mound.
Tuggle said her mother, Willie Lucille Crawford, was famous in the neighborhood for the homemade treats and for her good looks. An only child, she was born in the house and went by Lucille despite her first name.
“My grandfather really wanted a boy and he refused to let her have any other name, so my grandmother threw in Lucille. She was known for working in the sundry and she got famous on this corner, because everyone knew my momma from near and far,” Tuggle said.
“No matter where you came from she always had something good to tell you, even if it was kind of shaky and hurtful. She would say, 'now baby I don’t mean no harm' … just so you can see where she was coming from. My mom was a great lady.”
Lucille Crawford closed the store in the 1970s after someone attempted to rob her at gunpoint, but she continued to sell candy and snacks to children in the neighborhood.
After her mother passed, Tuggle filled her role as Candy Lady, serving Orange Mound's sweet tooth. She said she has never had a problem with break-ins and keeps the same prices that her mother had so that her products are always affordable to children.
According to the 2015 Census American Community Survey approximately 29 percent of Orange Mound residents are under 18 years old. Tuggle said it’s important to keep business alive in the home not only to continue the family tradition, but because it’s safer for kids in the neighborhood to visit a friendly home than cross busy streets to go to convenience stores.
Less than a mile from Tuggle's in-home candy shop, a Park Avenue convenience store was temporarily closed by police due to several illegal activities including drugs and prostitution.
The Candy Lady venture is also Tuggle’s only source of income. Despite competing Candy Ladies in the neighborhood, she said she’s not worried about business and has never had to advertise. She does not have a website and is not on any social media platforms.
Kids start lining up at the home of Deidra Tuggle, the Candy Lady of Orange Mound.
“I have dedicated customers. They come looking for me. I have a string of them following me sometimes after church,” she said.
“This has been going on over 70 years. I am well known. Why would I need to get the word out?”
Ashley Tuggle, Deidra Tuggle’s daughter, helps her mom sometimes during the after school hours, but doesn’t know if she will continue the tradition.
“I want to keep those things going,” she said. “But, I’m married now with my own house and my own family. I come help my mom sometimes. It’s important to keep the memories going. Orange Mound is known for so many bad things. So, it’s a good, well respected and well-known thing that happens here.”