Photos by Rachel Lock Photography
Glitter, beads, jewels, feathers, ribbons and numerous other embellishments fill the bright yellow bins behind the rainbow counter. Small tables, pre-set with blue paper mats, cups of crayons, paintbrushes and markers fill the room. Paint smocks hang on the cheery walls, along with samples of various craft projects.
Around the corner of the desk, an array of crafty possibilities awaits. Picture frames, paper-maché letters, bird houses, felt pillow monsters, and many other items ranging in price from $2.99 to $24.99, sit waiting to be chosen by budding artists.
Nestled in the patio area of the Brookwood Shopping Center between Dillon’s and Boss Hawg’s, Dandelions opened its doors in July. Owner Brenda Ruhnke said her vision was to create a place where kids could make awesome art projects and parents wouldn’t have to worry about the mess.
“Kids love to create things,” Brenda said. “But it is hard for parents to have all those art supplies on hand. And, they don’t want to deal with the cleanup at home. Here, the kids can pour paint, sprinkle glitter, spread glue—and we clean up the mess.”
Brenda knows a little bit about cleaning up after kids. As a stay-at-home mother who ran a day care for 27 years, she had plenty of practice. Five years ago, after the last of her day-care kids hit school age, she took a full-time job in the corporate world. However, she missed working with kids. So much so, that after a trip to Kansas City with her granddaughter, where they visited a similar craft store, she began forming plans to open her own place in Topeka.
Thanks to some guidance from the Washburn Small
Business Development Center and help from friends and family, Brenda cashed in her 401K and made that dream a reality.
“I can’t think of anything I would rather do,” Brenda said. “When I am working with a child, helping put glitter on or pour paint, it is pure joy for me.”
That joy can be seen sparkling in her eyes as she talks about future plans for Dandelions—or maybe that’s the glitter flower tattoo on her cheek.
Brenda hopes to bring in some pre-school classes and set up arrangements with local teachers so kids can come in and make their school projects in her store. She has planned store hours around local school calendars so that when kids are out of school for holidays or in-service days, they can have a place to spend a few hours doing something fun.
And because no one is ever too old for crafts, she is planning a ladies night each week to give artsy adults a chance to get in on the fun.
While parents are not allowed to just drop their kids off at Dandelions, they don’t have to actively participate in the craft projects if they don’t want too. However, according to a brightly colored sign hanging on the wall, “Children left unattended will be sent home with an open bottle of glitter.”
WHAT’S WITH THE NAME? Brenda said it has special meaning to her. “Dandelions. Adults see them as weeds. Children see them as wishes.”