“I was at the Alley Cat in 2004 on ’70s vinyl funk night, and I saw a girl hula-hooping. I had never hula-hooped in my life, believe it or not. I thought it looked like the coolest thing ever. I cornered her and said, ‘You need to teach me how to do that!’ From then on, I went back every weekend to practice. It never occurred to me I could practice at home; it had to be at Alley Cat. I went from learning to showing off my tricks. It was my way of dancing, ’cause then the guys couldn’t come up close. You had this barrier, where you could be fun and free. And then I had friends who would want to learn the moves, and I thought, ‘Oh, I should teach classes.’ So it all just kind of found me, and one thing led to another.” —Sunny Becks-Crumpton
A decade on from her hooping epiphany, Becks-Crumpton runs hoopsupplies.com, a one-stop shopping place for all things hoop. The Hoop Factory at 805 Woodland serves as the nerve center. Under that banner are several other businesses: Jump Rope in a Can, House of Fifi, and the Hankabee Button Company. But the main attraction — and main space-taker in the shop — is the hoops. Big industrial shelves hold over 80 different colors of raw hoop tubing, while other shelves hold all manner of sparkly decorative tape with which to create your own oneof- a-kind hoop.
“We’re in this shop four years now.,” Becks-Crumpton says, cutting an artistic figure with her shoulder-length gray hair and pink ’50s-esque teardrop glasses. “In the past, people who made their own hoops had to buy the tubing from one place, the tape from another. Everything was outsourced to different places. And I thought, why not have it all in one spot?”
While walk-ins are welcome, 98 percent of the sales are online. “Most people we sell to are making their own hoops. We’ll get a few people here and there we’ll make a hoop for, but for the most part it’s for the do-it-yourself person. I started the business in my house, making the hoops and selling them. And because I was teaching classes, I had a ready audience.”
While Becks-Crumpton no longer teaches classes, nor offers them in the shop, she did initially, coming up with the curriculum as she went along. She sketched out three sixweek periods of classes, in which six-to-10 moves would be learned each of the first two periods, and then in the third all the moves would be incorporated. (You would be forgiven for thinking there is only one basic hula-hooping move, but there are more than a few — the swish, the warrior, the wonder woman, etc. — involving every limb and body part.)
When pressed for what she does for fun, perhaps a laughable question for a mother of three, she doesn’t hesitate: “I come here! To work!” She loves the creativity and the chance to expose young and old to the time-honored playtime and fitness tools of hula hoops and the customizable “string your own beads” jump ropes sold in cans decorated by young local artists.
Looking forward, Becks-Crumpton says, “I don’t see any limitations with where we can go with this. I think the ultimate goal is to create an environment that feeds young entrepreneurs who are into what we’re doing from a creative realm. We’re a smorgasbord of things that seem to work randomly, when they probably maybe shouldn’t have worked. We just like to spread happiness and color.”