Soda jerk Margaux Hoglind serves customers at A. Schwab, including Australian visitors Glenn and Maureen Monckton, pictured below.
A charming turn of the century soda fountain serving frosted shakes, specialty sundaes, and made-to-order soft drinks has opened inside A. Schwab on Beale Street.
The white marble counter with stools stretches 50 feet along the store’s east side, offering a friendly perch for customers to watch soda jerk Margaux Hoglind hand mix old-fashioned sodas.
“Our chef makes all our syrups,” Hoglind said, referring to Patrick Gilbert’s creations such as the seven-root beer, a fusion of carrot, parsnip, ginger, burdock, licorice, sassafras, and sarsaparilla.
We opted for more simple drinks on our first visit, a lemon soda (more tangy than sweet) and a frosted chocolate shake with house-whipped cream swirled on top from a pastry bag. (Be sure to ask for a spoon.)
Both drinks were delicious and fun, thanks to Hoglind’s enthusiastic explanations about fruit-flavored phosphate sodas, a popular drink from the early 1900’s served once again at the A. Schwab fountain.
Operating continuously on Beale Street since 1876, the former haberdashery and dry goods store was sold by the Schwab family two years ago and refurbished by its new owners. The store still sells an eclectic mix of merchandise, including voodoo charms and Memphis music memorabilia, but the store’s second floor now includes a spacious venue for private parties.
Open since November 4, the soda fountain downstairs completes the store’s renovation, but owners don’t plan grand opening festivities until early next year.
“We want to get all the kinks worked out first,” said store manager Tommy Foster.
For now, the fountain’s sandwich menu is streamlined, offering chicken salad, tuna salad, or pimento cheese on hoagie buns with lettuce and tomato. Sides include pasta salad, three-bean salad, and loaded potato salad, all served in generous quarter-pound portions.
Cases also display local baked goods and candy from Dinstuhls, but save those treats for gifts or home. While visiting the fountain, settle into a stool or a table covered with a vintage cloth and order the Memphis Minnie, a specialty sundae made with brownies, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate sauce.
Soda Fountain at A. Schwab, 163 Beale St. (901-523-9782)