by Jen Johnston, CHHC, senior marketing services account manager
Beginning in the 1800s and continuing into the 1940s and 1950s, people enjoyed carbonated beverages at their local soda fountain. Often housed together with a pharmacy, the soda fountain counter was a public space where neighbors could socialize and exchange community news. However, the popularity of soda fountains declined with the introduction of convenience foods, commercial ice cream, bottled soft drinks, and more restaurant options.
Some independent pharmacies have retained their nostalgic feel by reviving existing or installing old-fashioned style soda fountains. This not only attracts new visitors regularly, it also gives existing customers another reason to gather at the pharmacy. And where people gather, they are likely to spend their money.
Here are four pharmacies that are killing it with soda fountains:
- Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain has been filling prescriptions in South Pasadena, CA since 1915. In the early 1990s, new owners decided to reinstall a working soda fountain, vintage pharmacy fixtures, and a lunch counter which they purchased en masse from another pharmacy. They also offer a robust compounding service.
- Vincent’s Drug Store opened in 2005. According to their website, walking into their store is like taking a step back in time; the pharmacist remembers patients’ names and asks about their children, and the soda jerks know customers’ orders by heart. They are located on Johns’ Island, south of Charleston, SC.
- The Pickwick of Greenville, SC is celebrating more than 60 years in the prescription business. In addition to boasting fast, no-wait prescription service, The Pickwick offers delivery service and complimentary gift wrapping. The soda shop seats approximately 50 people, serving simple sandwiches, shakes and malts, fresh-squeezed orangeade and lemonade, hotdogs and chilidogs, 20 flavors of ice cream, and cherry and vanilla cokes served from a 1949 soda fountain.
- Little Drug Co. opened its doors in 1922 in New Smyrna Beach, FL. Over the years it has been updated with state of the art technology, but has maintained the same ambience of the 1950s with its soda fountain and restaurant. The pharmacy also specializes in DME and diabetic supplies, and offers home delivery.
Including a soda fountain in your pharmacy is a excellent way to differentiate and firmly plant your pharmacy as a community gathering place. According to Vincent’s Drug Store’s store manager, Courtney Lamendola, “Vincent’s has really become a part of the community here. Families return year after year during summer vacations to split giant Vacation Sundaes. Grandparents share memories of the authentic soda shops from their youth, when a Root Beer Float cost a nickel. Locals return time after time for malts and milkshakes. Sitting down on a stool here is like taking a step back in history to a time when life was simpler and easier. It’s not just about the food and ice cream, it’s that comforting feeling that brings people back again and again.”
Kelly Odom, owner of the Pickwick echoes those sentiments. “After bringing back our soda fountain over a decade ago, we found that it has become a community meeting place just as it was sixty years ago. What’s more is we find the same families frequent our establishment now that did one or even two generations prior.”
I hope these four pharmacies have inspired you. What can you do to differentiate your store? Is a soda fountain in your future?