Sue Kuehn shows the truth of her shirt as she smiles among just one section of her extensive collection. Ariana Hones photo
by Ariana Hones
“Da da DAH!”
That’s Sue Kuehn.
Affectionally, the M&M Lady from Berlin.
As she walks up the stairs to her expansive second floor collection of M&M candy memorabilia, she presents her gallery of items much like a ringmaster orchestrating a show.
With a flourish of her hands and much pomp and circumstance.
From floor to ceiling, her more than 1,400-item M&M collection spans many rooms.
Each section split thematically.
The Christmas corner begins the tour.
The artificial Christmas tree is weighed down with around 150 unique M&M ornaments and baubles.
Kuehn remarks on the details of some of items: “When you start looking closely at them, you can just stare for hours because of the detail that is in each one them.”
She is right.
Each section of her collection from the vintage tins to the telephones to the radios and sports items are comprised with detailed M&M animation and character.
As Kuehn navigates through her collection, a story pops up for almost every item she points out.
Whether it is the homemade M&M inspired picture frame that her granddaughter Kayla made for her, or descriptions of the various M&M personalities such as Red’s “hot shot” persona or Miss Green’s “sassiness.”
How did this candy come to transform Kuehn’s second floor?
It all started 30 years ago.
“It was 1988 [and] I always had a bowl of M&Ms on my desk,” Kuehn said. “The first item I received was [a] gift from a co-worker when I was banking and then another co-worker got another piece for me. I didn’t have any intention of starting a collection, I just happened to keep them.
“Through the course of time things just started to show up. I would set them on top of the TV. The collection started growing from there and is still growing.”
Kuehn wanders through three bedrooms and a bathroom, all filled with M&M memorabilia.
As she tours through she plugs in M&M-themed lamps, singing machines, and dispensers to hear the “ever annoying” jingles of the animated candies.
“When family members come to visit they unplug all of this stuff,” Kuehn smiles. “They think it is so annoying.”
Along with the personal stories of various items, Kuehn explains the rich history of this candy.
“M&M candy was first created to send to troops in World War II,” she said. “They were sold exclusively to the military and after the war they opened it up to the public.
“Forrest Mars, son of Mars Company tycoon Frank Mars, and Bruce Murrie, son of Hershey’s Chocolate giant William Murrie, formed a partnership to develop the M&M and during war times it was made only with Hershey’s chocolate. The name comes from both of their last names.”
What is realized on a tour with Kuehn, however, is that this expansive collection paying tribute to M&Ms is not really about the colorful, candy-coated chocolate at all.
It is about creating something together.
The beauty of her collection is not found in the historical narrative of the founding of M&M.
Rather it is found in her stories likes the one about the giant Mr. Blue M&M store display in one of the bedrooms.
“The display was up for raffle in Stillwater, Minn.,” she said. “My brother bought one ticket and I bought $20 worth. When I didn’t hear back I thought nothing had come of it. Then at Christmas we were at my brother’s house and they had me sit on the couch and close my eyes. They rolled Mr. Blue up behind me. I screamed when I saw him. I couldn’t believe it; I was so excited. He had won it on that single ticket.”
Kuehn’s favorites items beyond the giant Mr. Blue?
They aren’t the ones that are worth the most money.
They are the homemade blue peanut M&M that Kayla made in art class, or the hand-crafted wooden box with an M&M logo that Russ, Kuehn’s husband, made for her.
Kuehn has found a way to bring her beloved candy and family together.
“They go nuts for M&Ms,” she laughs.
As Kuehn dons her “Surrounded by Nuts” M&M shirt, it is clear she does, too.