What could be better than a cold soda on a hot day? These five classic soda fountains exude retro charm while serving up such delicious treats as hand-crafted phosphates, sundaes, and malts. Drop a quarter in the jukebox, kick back, and enjoy.

Imagine sipping an old-fashioned phosphate while seated in a cozy booth and listening to ’50s classics, or sitting at a  marble-topped counter while enjoying a refreshing hand-dipped root beer float. The nostalgic feel of an old-time soda fountain brings back beloved memories of past decades. The checkered floors, shiny spouts, and spinning stools are a flashback to a relaxed time when people enjoyed the simple pleasures of life.

Soda fountains were once part of many locally owned drugstores. Pharmacists operated their drugstores while also serving up sweet treats. Think of the 1960s TV series The Andy Griffith Show. Many of the show’s episodes included scenes from Walker’s Drugstore where Andy and his son Opie enjoyed ice cream sodas. Opie even worked as a “soda jerk” in one episode.

These old-school shops with classic counter service started to decline when beverage companies began mass-producing fountain drinks in bottles and cans. Now, few vintage soda fountains remain across the United States. Luckily, though, some of these iconic shops still exist in the Show-Me State.

Wet your whistle with a Cherry Coke or a chocolate soda at one of these quaint shops for a truly authentic experience. Let the ambience, and the treats, take you back to the good ol’ days.

Photo Courtesy of Clinton’s Soda Fountain

Clinton’s Soda Fountain • Independence

Clinton’s Soda Fountain is full of history. Many years ago, a young Harry Truman worked at a pharmacy and soda fountain at this exact location in downtown Independence. The building dates back to the 1800s and has housed a variety of businesses.

Inside, customers can enjoy a retro experience as they sit at the counter and order a phosphate or butterscotch sundae with chocolate ice cream, Harry’s favorite. The shop exudes charm, from its checkerboard floor to marble countertop, as customers relive the past, one sip at a time.

There are plenty of sweet treats to try, including soda phosphates with flavored syrups, sodas and floats, ice cream, edible cookie dough, coffee, and more.

100 West Maple Avenue • 816-833-2046 • ClintonsSodaFountain.com

Photo Courtesy of The Pickel Barrel

The Pickle Barrel • Elsberry

The Pickle Barrel might have an unusual name, but that doesn’t deter customers from stopping in for treats. The sodas and phosphates are mixed with syrup and seltzer and can be customized by adding chocolate, cherry, vanilla, orange, lime, or grape. Other tempting options include hand-dipped soda floats, malts, and shakes, plus sundaes, banana splits, and more. Food is available from the deli.

Customers wax nostalgic as they sit at the counter where their phosphates and delicious desserts are made. There is even a pinball machine and jukebox to keep customers entertained, plus antiques and gifts.

The Pickle Barrel is a small place with a big-idea motto: “We do it simple, but really good.”

401 Broadway • 573-898-5658 • Facebook.com/PickleBarrelElsberryMo

Photo Courtesy of Saults Drugstore

Saults Drug Store • Fulton

Saults Drug originally opened in 1937 on Fifth Street with a little lunch counter. After moving to the current Court Street location, the owners added an old-fashioned soda fountain in April 1988.

Now owned and operated by local residents Mark Jennings, Alton Real, and Brenda Real, Saults Drug Store is in Fulton’s Brick District.

The soda fountain is set up in the center of the store, complete with booths and counter. There is even a working toy train that travels around a track that outlines the perimeter of the fountain.

There are plenty of regular customers who love the soda fountain, including groups who gather each day to enjoy favorites such as root beer floats, phosphates, shakes, malts, ice cream, and snacks.

Pharmacy services, over-the-counter items, and gifts are also available at Saults.

302 N Main Street • 573-642-4186  • Facebook.com/Saults-Drug-Store-Inc

Photo Courtesy of SugarBot

SugarBot Creamery • St. Charles

After taking ownership of Little O’s old-time soda fountain in historic downtown St. Charles, Jackie Huebbe and her husband, Mark, have been working to align the business with what an authentic soda shop would have been like years ago.

The Huebbes are trying to capture the essence of an original soda fountain shop from back then, with a re-creation that includes a vast supply of clean-label products that have no artificial colors, flavors, or other additives.

Hand-crafted sodas, phosphates, ice cream floats, milkshakes, and more are only a few of the sweet treats found at Little O’s. With so many different syrups, there is a wealth of customized combinations.

Little O’s also offers hand-scooped ice cream custom-made for the shop, plus a selection of old-time candy and from-scratch desserts, including cake by the slice, brownies, and gooey butter cake, all made with real butter and vanilla.

Jackie’s inspiration to purchase the business came from her grandfather, who had owned a soda fountain in Hermann.

“It was definitely something that helped me to know this was something we should be doing,” Jackie says. She adds that there are several photographs of her grandfather’s business hanging on the walls of Little O’s.

The Huebbes are the third owners of the business, which opened in 2011.

302 North Main Street • 636-724-0978 • Facebook: SugarBotCreamery

Photo courtesy of Fox’s Drugstore Soda Fountain and Lunch Counter

Fox’s Drugstore Soda Fountain & Lunch Counter • Raytown

It’s comfort food to the core at the lunch counter and soda fountain of Fox’s Drugstore. Customers revel in the atmosphere of this nearly 80-year-old Raytown business, including the vintage mixer used to make what customers describe as the “best malts in town.”

The business, opened in the 1930s by Francis Thomas Fox, is currently owned by Gary Fox. You won’t fill any prescriptions at this shop (the pharmacy closed in 2016), but you will get a bellyful of nostalgia and good old-fashioned comfort food.

The long counter with swivel chairs offers a view of fresh-squeezed limeades, chocolate sodas, shakes, root beer floats, and even unusual creations like the Watermelon Peach Raz soda as they’re made.

Customers can get a taste of history as they savor the chili, still made from the 1953 original recipe. Homemade sandwiches such as the grilled egg salad with bacon and cheese and Frito pies are memorable options.

10004 East 63rd Street • 816-353-1602 • Facebook: Fox’s Drugs

Photo by Pamela Clifton

Old Vintage Mercantile • Caledonia

The soda fountain and creamery for Old Village Mercantile aren’t located inside of a pharmacy; they’re housed in a 110-year-old general store. This oasis of tasty pleasure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Steve and Nina Gilliam have owned the business for 17 years. In that time, they have worked hard to restore the building while trying to maintain its historic charm, including the original tin ceiling.

Beyond the building’s history and antiques, customers are drawn to its soda fountain and creamery. Whether your tastes run to soda floats or milkshakes, there are plenty of old-fashioned treats to enjoy.

The homemade ice cream elevates the sodas to make them unforgettable.

Randy Huff, a retired teacher, works as an ice cream maker and baker at the mercantile. He makes at least 13 flavors of ice cream each day and bakes fresh waffle cones, cookies, and other ingredients used in the fountain.

Customers can order sodas, floats, shakes, sundaes, cones, and other delicious desserts that include ice cream flavors like butter pecan, Cookie Monster, pumpkin cheesecake, caramel apple pie, and even a gluten-free and dairy-free option.

In addition to fountain treats, customers can buy bulk and hard-to-find candy, antiques, and other unique gifts and treats.

Old Village Mercantile’s employees are passionate about what they do.

“They take ownership of this building and love to see our customers smiling and happy,” Nina says. “They go above and beyond to make each person’s experience amazing. It’s truly a family atmosphere here.”

The look on customers’ faces when they enjoy a soda or ice cream treat at the mercantile says it all: pure pleasure from the simple things in life.

219 South State Route 21 • 573-779-3907 • OldVillageMercantile.com

Top photo by R. Mac Wheeler on Unsplash

Article originally published in the March/April 2019 issue of Missouri Life and was updated July 2024.