Long after heyday, soda fountain pharmacies still got fizz

KENOVA, W.Va. (AP) — The jukebox performs Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” as Malli Jarrett and Nathaniel Fornash get turns at the Griffith & Feil Drug food stuff counter planning previous-fashioned, soda-fountain phosphate beverages.

Soda fountains like this had been massively well-known a century back. Frequently located in pharmacies, they ended up a collecting spot for the duration of Prohibition when bars shut down. But in excess of the past 50 percent century, their numbers fizzled, relegating soda fountains to the scrapbooks of U.S. background.

In West Virginia, Ric Griffith is holding the tradition likely. His 131-year-outdated small business is a Norman Rockwell scene and time-vacation tourism all wrapped into just one.

“When you had a soda fountain, men and women would stay more time, they’d sit down and they’d share stories,” Griffith explained. “It would not develop into the put in which you grabbed lunch. It was a location where you experienced an encounter.”

Griffith and his daughter, Heidi, are pharmacists whose pharmacy workers works in the back again. Up entrance, the cafe provides every day lunch and meal specials. Buyers soak in the atmosphere: the jukebox, neon-pink indicators, black-and-white photographs of nearby landmarks, marbled counters, retro padded stools and a metallic-tiled ceiling.

And, of study course, people tart-and-sweet phosphate beverages.

Griffith leaves the dispensing to soda jerks like Jarrett and Fornash (they are not really jerks — the term describes the motion made use of to pull the handle of the soda water dispenser).

“It’s entertaining doing work at a put like this, watching all the customers appear in, hunting around, using a move back again in time and telling me about how a great deal of them made use of to get the job done right here when they ended up youthful,” Jarrett mentioned.

The initial U.S. patent for dispensing carbonated drinking water via a soda fountain spigot dates to the early 1800s. Acid phosphate drinks had been produced many years afterwards as pharmacists combined tonics for buyers who sought cures for ailments. As soda fountain production and efficiency improved, so did the recipes and flavors. The drinks had been specified names like Inexperienced River or Black Cow.

Food menus were extra, and consumers ate although ready for prescriptions to be crammed.

In Oregon, the Grants Go Pharmacy has served phosphate beverages considering the fact that opening in 1933. Those had been the yrs when soda-fountain pharmacies skyrocketed beneath Prohibition, the manufacture and sale of alcohol was banned from 1920 to 1933.

Pharmacist-proprietor Michele Belcher was a soda jerk beginning in center faculty soon after her mothers and fathers purchased the Grants Move Pharmacy from the authentic proprietor in 1973. Part of the obstacle, she mentioned, is updating outdated products whilst preserving some of the character of the initial soda fountain.

“Many situations individuals will make the exertion to appear back again and contact base with me or leave a be aware that they appreciated that it was even now right here in our local community,” Belcher mentioned.

By the late 1950s, pharmacists were being reviewing their company types to make the most of tight spaces, which include replacing the soda fountain with cabinets stocked with house staples. Mom-and-pop drug retailers inevitably couldn’t retain up with tightening govt rules or competition from shopping mall food items courts, chain pharmacies and quickly-food items places to eat.

Some stayed open but shut possibly the pharmacy or soda fountain sides. Others morphed into aspect businesses these as present shops and ice cream parlors.

The earlier decade has been particularly tough. The Highland Park Soda Fountain in Dallas, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012, shut down in 2018. The Central Drug Retailer in Bessemer City, North Carolina, open up 94 decades, closed in 2021. Borroum’s Drug Retailer in Corinth, Mississippi, also closed its pharmacy that 12 months immediately after a lot more than 150 years in small business, but keeps its soda fountain going.

Now, a new technology of entrepreneurs is rising — literally out of the ashes in the circumstance of the Phoenix Pharmacy and Fountain in Knoxville, Tennessee. It opened in 2016 in a century-old constructing that had noticed two devastating fires.

The Phoenix “is not about resurrecting your grandfather’s community pharmacy it is about reintroducing the perspective of it,” its web page states.

Also in 2016, Rhode Island pharmacist Christina Procaccianti established the Environmentally friendly Line Apothecary, a whole-provider pharmacy and soda fountain in two places.

At Griffith & Feil, in West Virginia, Ric Griffith, 74, is happy of his selection of 41 presidential signatures and other memorabilia and is normally prepared to reveal them on cue.

What he cannot share are reminiscences of the soda fountain as a kid. His father taken out it in 1957. Griffith reinstalled a single in 2004 soon after three yrs of painstaking prep work. “I constantly yearned for that myself,” he claimed.

Just after the reopening, Griffith recalled, a male sitting in a booth with his granddaughter was sharing tales of his youth. A long time just before, the guy reported, he would get there in the identical booths soon after faculty and order a cherry Coke. Griffith listened to the dialogue, “and the glance on his granddaughter’s encounter was excellent,” he said. “She’d under no circumstances assumed of her grandfather as ever having been young. He was normally her grandfather.”

It solidified Griffith’s hope that individuals can nonetheless partake in what at the time was a prevalent tradition in very little cities across America: sharing meals and tales alternatively than selecting the quick route of a quickly-foodstuff push-through.

“And so when we maintain historical past, we’re not just preserving actifacts,” Griffith stated. “We’re preserving a model of dwelling, a way of interacting. That soda fountain has blessed me in lots of ways.”

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