On a fleeting visit to the pretty town of Greenville, South Carolina, I couldn’t resist stopping in at a pharmacy that has been owned and operated by the same family since 1947. And give or take a couple of decades from the 1980’s, when the soda fountain section was briefly shuttered, The Pickwick today remains in the classic format. One half of the space houses a well stocked neighborhood pharmacy and on the other side, a bustling soda fountain, with a long counter, tall swivel-stools and Formica tables.
The Pickwick is everything I imagine a classic soda fountain should be. Authentic, vintage drugstore paraphernalia cover the walls. Guests of all ages line up to order traditional fountain fare – milkshakes, root beer floats, a large menu of ice cream and sundaes, and sandwiches containing various types of ‘salad’ (which, for my non-American readers is basically chicken or tuna in mayonnaise, no lettuce in sight!) Most guests appear to know the soda jerks (that’s the staff, of course), by name and have a regular order. I’m immediately won over by the specific, small town community vibe, something almost impossible to find in either my native London or my adopted home, New York.
My tuna ‘salad’ sandwich was as unexciting as I expected, but my sundae was a calorific treat. Choosing a scoop of moose tracks (vanilla, with fudge and peanut butter cups), and another of butter pecan, I ordered some chocolate sauce and walnuts thrown on for good measure. It might surprise you to know that I rarely allow myself a sundae when I’m alone, so this felt like an extremely naughty treat – but I let my inner 6 year old to go crazy and boy did she have fun!
As authentic as I’m sure it is, I was disappointed that everything was served in wasteful polystyrene – what happened to the beautiful glass tulip sundae dishes of yesteryear’s? But as a guest in these parts, I won’t complain (too loudly, anyway). After all, this magical soda fountain is exactly the sort of place I wish I’d had in my home town, as I was growing up. And I hope it continues to delight many more generations of Greenville residents to come.