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Soda fountain copies 1909 original

Mail Tribune

The town's first soda shop is back in operation, but the original fountain couldn't be saved.

Lithia Fountain and Grill opened April 2 in a space that has housed Rosie's Sweet Shoppe, Ingle Drugs or East Side Pharmacy since 1909.

— — — — Natural Cafe offers healthy and reasonably priced — food

— The Natural Caf? opened in late February at the — former Rogue Ski Shop site, 358 E. Main St.

— We offer reasonably priced, healthy food, — said co-owner Carl Wright. It did seem like a big need for that in this town.

— Lunch is the busiest time at the restaurant so far.

— The locals are the ones that are coming back day — after day, said co-owner John Koch. He compares the restaurant to the Blue Mountain Caf?, a — local hangout that closed last year to make way for a new fire station.

— Customers order at a counter. Meals are brought to — them. Entrees range from $5.50 to $8.95. Daily specials cost more. Most sandwiches are under $5. — Salads and kids' items are also available. No beef items are listed on the menu.

— A 500-square-foot addition was built to house the — kitchen. The original ceiling was removed, exposing trusses, and 16 skylights were added. A wood — floor was installed. Two disabled-accessible bathrooms were built.

— The building seats 75 inside. An outdoor patio that is — partially covered with an awning seats 60. Heat lamps will be installed outdoors next fall.

— Remodeling and the addition cost $275,000. Rogue Ski — Shop owner Bob Matthews is leasing the site.

— Wright and a partner opened a caf? with the same name — in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1993. A second caf? followed in nearby Goleta in 1995. Wright — remains a partner in those businesses.

— Koch was formerly food services manager at the Ashland — Community Food Store. He is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America.

— The caf? is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday — through Thursday, and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It will open at 7 a.m. to serve coffee, — juices and baked items beginning in June. — — Efforts to salvage the original 1909 soda fountain failed. The interior had rusted. A car that rolled down a hill during the 1960s and struck the fountain caused considerable damage. Marble from the original top was used in the footrests.

"They built this place around it," said Lori Forrest, the shop's owner. "It was sad to realize we couldn't keep it."

The 2,000 pound fountain has been shipped from Decatur, Ill. The new fountain is similar in style. But other old fixtures remain.

Coca-Cola chairs with heart- shaped backs that date to the 1930s got new upholstery. Original fountain stools were rechromed and reupholstered. A solid oak floor with teak oil finish replaced carpet. Faux embossed copper covers the ceiling. Photographs on the wall show the building in various eras.

A larger bathroom on the first floor replaces an older one on the second floor. About $300,000 was spent on the remodel, said Forrest, who leases the space. The remodel took five months.

The fountain was just part of a larger drug store operation that included a pharmacy until 1977, when it became the Sweet Shoppe.

Dr. Francis G. Swedenburg built the structure in 1909 as a drugstore with medical offices upstairs. East Side Pharmacy was the first occupant, owned by the doctor's brother, C.J. Swedenburg, and J.J. McNair. The business became Ingle Drug in the late 1930s.

Bill Elhart, who graduated from Ashland High School in 1941, has some of the plastic ware that was used at the fountain during the 1930s and 1940s. "It still has the same backbar and stools now," said Elhart.

Young people didn't gather at the fountain. "You didn't have teen hangouts in those days," said Elhart.

Maranatha Michael, 86, used to walk downtown with her daughters and stop for sodas when the store was Ingle Drug.

"It was a really nice store. First class," said Michael. "There were four or five drugstores in town."

Cards, gifts and perfumes were among the items on sale. "We used to get a 5-cent Coke," said daughter Evie Watt.

Prices are higher now.

Sales of hamburgers to high school kids from California on spring break totaled nearly $1,000 per day during the restaurant's first week.

"I underestimated the need for low-cost food here," said Forrest. Meal items range from $3 to $8.95. Kids' meals are $3.50 to $3.95. Malts, shakes, floats and old-fashioned phosphates are available at the fountain.

Kids get tokens for pinball machines with their meals. Three large televisions entertain clients. There's a chest of toys for younger kids.

Geoff Shaefer, a former professional chef like Forrest, is manager. The business has four full-time and 10 part-time employees. Forrest formerly owned a pub in Palo Alto, Calif.

The restaurant, at 303 E. Main St., is open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. seven days a week. The fountain stays open later. Its closing time varies with the season.

Soda fountain copies 1909 original