People sit beneath tilted, plastic umbrellas, chatting about their weeks, their children and their lives. Others are in their cars or standing around, enthralled in a conversation with a friend. Even though the people include all ages, genders and backgrounds, they all have at least one thing in common: they are all eating ice cream. Sundaes, dipped cones, Arctic Blasts and even specialty puppy cones can be seen in every hand. As customers share tales, the blue and pink light from the neon sign above the establishment shines against the setting sun. Next to the giant, neon vanilla cone, it reads “Snookie’s Malt Shop.”
“I’m Snookie,” said Marilyn Caves, one of the co-owners of Snookie’s Malt Shop. “That’s my nickname. I was born early, and my family didn’t have a name picked out for me yet. So my grandmother called me Snookie.”
What a fitting story for such a family-oriented restaurant. Caves described Snookie’s largely as a social gathering spot.
“Everyone sits and talks,” she said, “and find people they haven’t talked to in years.”
Even dogs are included in the fun. Jim Graves, Caves’ husband and co-owner of Snookie’s, said the puppy cones and dog treats the shop sells all started with the couple’s dog, Nike. The owners would give Nike treats, and one day a customer asked if they could have one for his dog. Since that day, Snookie’s has catered to customers and their furry friends.
Local dogs have been known to sneak out just for a tasty ice cream puppy cone. One neighborhood dog, Graves said, would slip under the fence and run to Snookie’s. He would scratch on the shop’s back door until someone gave him a puppy cone. After lapping up his treat, the dog would sneak into his own backyard again. Graves recalled the owners coming to ask if he had seen their dog, only to discover the dog had returned- after a puppy cone, of course – when they got home.
It’s not only the dogs that will do anything for an ice cream cone from Snookie’s; parents all over Beaverdale use it as a reward for well-behaved children.
“Parents will say, ‘If you eat your peas, you can have Snookie’s,’ and it works,” Caves said.
Caves and Graves both know the value of a well-behaved child. Before Snookie’s Malt Shop, both worked as teachers. In fact, their pensions were what pushed the couple to seek a supplemental income in the form of real estate. Caves and Graves love to travel, and they feared their small teacher’s pensions would not allow them to follow their retirement dreams. So when the opportunity arose, they bought the establishment that is now Snookie’s Malt Shop.
The seasonal shop was perfect for extra work during the school year into the summer as well as for when they retired. Since they retired, Caves and Graves have worked at the ice cream shop together from April to September each year. They use the rest of the year to travel.
Caves looks back on the purchase of the shop and thinks about how well it worked out.
“We didn’t know anything about business,” Caves said. “We just jumped in one day and did it.”
The building was a Dairy Queen in the 1950s and lasted for about 10 years. Next it became Beaver Bend, another ice cream shop that lasted 25 years. Snookie’s has become the most successful establishment of the three. However, after 26 years, Snookie’s may be saying goodbye.
“I think it’s the right time,” Caves said. “Though Jim (Graves) doesn’t look it, he’s almost 75.”
She reflects positively on her and her husband’s real estate venture and the experiences it led to. She repeated her gratefulness for the community’s support several times.
“This community made us who we are,” Caves said, clasping her hands and looking around at the donated antiques decorating the dining room.
Caves also said the building would still be an ice cream shop when they leave, even if it’s not called Snookie’s. Caves said that the couple wasn’t certain about their plans for the future of Snookie’s yet, but she said that “Snookie’s may not be here next summer.”
But even if Snookie’s does not reopen next summer, the little ice cream shop will always be a part of Beaverdale history.