Summertime. The perfect weather for cold sodas, smooth malted milkshakes, and double-dip cones. Remember visiting the soda fountain as a kid? Remember plunking coins in the jukebox and taking your date for one root beer float with two straws? These days, the “kids” might express awe at the idea of a soda for a dime or an ice cream sundae for two quarters, but there are still places within one-and-a-half hours of Omaha where you can pick up an authentic root beer float or a banana split. Be prepared, however, to spend more than a dime on a soda.
The Bake Shop and Hollywood Cafe: 1301 Broadway, Denison, IA
Donna Reed spent time here as a youth. In fact, this soda fountain shares a building with the Donna Reed Performing Arts Center. Next door to photo showcases from the famous actress’ life, the fountain serves Pink Ladies and Grasshoppers.
Jay Drug: 612 W. Sheridan Ave., Shenandoah, IA
Located in the heart of downtown in this small Iowa town. For those bicycling through, stop in and have one of the malts. RAGBRAI founder Chuck Offenburger claims they make the greatest malted milks on Earth.
McMahon Drug Store: 625 Davis Ave., Corning, IA
The soda fountain is actually maintained in a Hy-Vee Drug, which bought the store in 2011. Slide up to the counter and slurp on a malt or a phosphate in a quaint atmosphere…in a franchised store.
Oard-Ross Drug: 701 16th Ave., Council Bluffs, IA
The green, red, and yellow tiles on the outside of this small building in western Council Bluffs scream mid-1960s. They offer lots of “penny candy” (not quite a penny these days); however, the shop no longer features a soda fountain. That is a shame, because it looks like you should be able to step up to the counter and order a Purple Cow.
Penn Drug Co.: 714 Illinois St., Sidney, IA
Dr. John Newton Penn started this pharmacy in 1863, and the Penn family still runs it today. The soda fountain is the pride and joy of this store. Indulge in a variety of phosphates and ice cream treats while munching on liverwurst and cheese or egg salad sandwiches.
Ramsey Family Fountain: 1155 Third St., Tecumseh, NE
The soda fountain and cafe was established in 2009 and features hundreds of framed photos of local servicemen and women, as the original idea was to find a place for the owners’ photography collection. The counters and porcelain front came from a former soda fountain down the street, Chief Drug (which still operates as a pharmacy).
River House Soda Fountain & Cafe: 402 Main St., Plattsmouth, NE
Looking for a Black Cow or a peppermint shake? Look no further. This mom and pop store is located next to the courthouse in this quaint small town. It not only offers ice cream sodas and lemonade, it offers iced mochas or lattes for those with more modern tastes.
The Soda Fountain Cafe: 801 S. 10th St., Omaha, NE
A longtime Omaha soda fountain and popular tourist stop. The Soda Fountain Cafe (inside the Durham Museum) includes a wide variety of phosphates made with flavored syrup and soda water straight from the fountain dispenser. When you finish there, browse the candy shop for something to take home.
The Soda Fountain at the Fairmont: 1209 Jackson St., Omaha, NE
While it has only been around since the late 2000s, the stainless steel counter area is the original unit from Cris Rexall Drug Store on 50th and Dodge streets. You can buy your own nostalgic or strangely flavored soda from their pop room and ask to have a float made from it.
Springfield Drug & Soda Fountain: 205 Main St., Springfield, NE
They serve the iconic Green River soda. This drug store opened in 1977 in a former bank, and the soda fountain was added on 10 years later when the owner found a fountain for free from a defunct store in Iowa.
Stoner Drug: 1105 Main St., Hamburg, IA
Go ahead and giggle. It did at one time sell cocaine and opium (in the form of laudanum). That’s because the store opened in 1896, when these two drugs were legal. They still fill legal prescriptions. Walk up to the counter and order a cherry phosphate or a real cherry cola—not the kind coming out of a can, but real cherry syrup mixed with cola.
*Editor’s Note: This magazine version of this article focused on the original Stoner Drug location for its Nostalgia series. Stoner Drug also has locations at 712 Main St, Tabor, IA; and 315 S Main St, Rock Port, MO.
Traveling this summer? Visit slidellsodashop.com and click on Soda Shops of America to view a list of soda fountains throughout America.