Soda Fountain on Main Street Endures in Spite of Pandemic

Paige Grasser
Special to the Globe
Tara Redger, soda jerk at Remember When…Antiques and Ice Cream, serves ice cream to a customer. SUBMITTED PHOTO

CIMARRON — The old-fashioned soda fountain on the corner of Highway 50 and Main Street has always been a staple in Cimarron, Kans. Generations of kids made the soda fountain the after-school hangout, while generations of adults got together for conversation and coffee.

Since the building had been a combination of a soda fountain and pharmacy for over 50 years, the way that most of the locals remember the fountain is as part of Clark Pharmacy.

However, in 2019, Mat and Kim Monical, owners of the pharmacy, sold the building and moved their pharmacy across the street.

When the building went up for sale last year, some local citizens became concerned about the soda fountain closing.

Kay VanderGiesen was one of those people.

VanderGiesen was born and raised around the area and, knowing the impact that taking the soda fountain away would have on the community, she decided to move her antique store into the building — along with the fountain.

“I chose to do the soda fountain because I felt like the community needed it,” VanderGiesen said, “but as we started working with it, we came up with more and more ideas.”

Remember When… Antiques and Ice Cream sells, well, antiques and ice cream. They also began serving lunch, Monday through Friday, right before the world was struck with a pandemic.

Remember When…’s normal hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“What we wanted to do is get different generations,” VanderGiesen said. “We saw it as a melting pot, a way for the adults to mentor the kids as well as maybe the kids to help the older people. That’s why we added the games.”

VanderGiesen decided that, along with bringing generations together, she also wanted to bring recognition to the veterans in the community.

She created a wall with the saying, ‘Freedom isn’t free,’ highlighted across the top, adding photographs of local veterans underneath the quote.

“We decided to do the veterans’ wall because it would make people proud to know that they’re in the community and it would honor them,” VanderGiesen said.

She was enthusiastic about the entire project of the soda fountain until COVID-19 hit. Even then, she didn’t lose her energy.

“We’ve tried, really hard, to do lots of sanitizing, and our staff wears masks. We try to wash our hands before we touch anything,” she said.

VanderGiesen and her staff faced several difficulties when COVID hit.

“We had to close for a while," she said. "That was hard. At first, we were serving car-side. It got to the place where it was not feasible to continue that, and that was when we had to close for a while. "Finally, we re-opened.”

Remember When… Antiques and Ice Cream was able to reopen with the correct safety measures. It has taken time, but customers are beginning to flood in again.

“Now most of our business is takeout," VanderGiesen said. "A few come in and eat lunch, and a few come in to have coffee or ice cream or whatever, but most has been takeout. It’s easy because you can take it and go, and we may continue to have a lot of that."

VanderGiesen talked about what she loves about the business.

“Probably the conversations that I get to have with people is what I enjoy most,” she said. “Especially the ones that I talk to about antiques because they know a lot more about particular items than I do.

"It is interesting for me to learn. I also enjoy the cooking because I like cooking for people. I don’t know. I like to feed people. I think it’s close to their soul.”

Because of VanderGiesen, the old-time soda fountain will continue to be a staple in Cimarron for generations to come.

A variety of antiques makes Remember When….Antiques and Ice Cream in Cimarron a perfect spot for afternoon browsing. SUBMITTED PHOTO