Winter ’08 Scoop!

Philadelphia, February 1908

Warm winter wishes from The Franklin Fountain! Buckled down here in mid-February, we’ve got a lot to report in the past two months in life and business. New Years arrived without celebration, except for those customers who realized the Fountain is now open on weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) in the Winter. We will return to a 7-day schedule sometime in March… Early in the New Year, the world lost a great man in Dick Warren (1935-2008). Dick was a mentor of ours in the ice cream business, a fellow collector of ice cream ephemera and a role model in life. Please see the eulogy [right].

By month’s end, we prepared the store to run under the capable hands of the crew and embarked for ten days on our annual Old Time Soda Fountain and Confectionery tour. First stop was the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg where the boys tread the early 1900s Moravian Tile Floors in search of local scenes. There we saw the Letitia St. House, a milkmaid and two spectacular and spectacled Franklin mosaics. Then onto the Midwest! went the cry, taking aim at Zaharako’s in Columbus, Indiana. In the last two years, this gloriouis soda fountain from 1899 was rescued by a local businessman, Tony Morbeck, and is being restored to the hilt. Ryan and Eric visited to see the progress in all of its deconstructed glory. Quarter-sawn oak paneling was being refinished, tin ceilings patched, gaslights re-gilded and stained glass cleaned. A very capable crew was onsite the day we visited, meticulously working towards a 2009 re-opening. We are truly inspired by the attention to detail and resources Tony has allocated for Zaharako’s and look forward to assisting with its restoration. Gentleman Morbeck truly deserves a “huzzah” for his efforts!

Next was the sparkling Schimpff’s Confectionery in Jeffersonville, Indiana where, since 1871, the Schimpff family has been making beautiful candies. Warren and Jill Schimpff graciously gave their full attention all afternoon to us, touring us around their soda fountain and candy museum … an absolute visual cacophony of confectionery. Ryan and Eric were overwhelmed by their stunning collection of candy advertising and antique hard candy machines, many of which still in are in service. There is a candy-making demonstration area that was drawing passersby from the street the week before Valentine’s Day, blazing with red hot hearts. We traded secrets on Clear Toy molding, sniffed the back room chocolate operations and sympathized with the daily trials of a labor-intensive high volume business. These folks have passion and it shows…keep it up!

Many other stops peppered our trip including another stop at Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl (Zanesville, OH), the only ice cream shop the Berley Brothers salivate over as hot roasted cashews and redskin peanuts emerge from the ovens to coat scrumptious sundaes. Antique shopping in Ohio yielded a van full of old wire ice cream tables for use at the Fountain (we don’t buy new ones) and a hard candy batch roller to continue our journey into the world of the sugar arts. Zingerman’s Deli and Bakery in Ann Arbor, Michigan was a must-see as they literally wrote the book on customer service that Eric had devoured this past year. We were very well received by founder Ari and the other owners of this local institution and were encouraged by their focused, organic approach to growth over the past 25 years. Check out to learn more about this amazing company! Rounding the trip out was the usual mix of art and architecture via the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn and the Detriot Institute of the Arts reminded us that so many great things begin and end with artists.

Back in the City of Brotherly Love, we are working towards exciting internal improvements at The Fountain. A new, old-style water fountain was just plumbed in on the Letitia St sidewalk to service the throngs of thirsty ice cream eaters in the summer. Made by Murdock of Ohio since 1853, it is an original design from the early 1900s and a refreshing example of American craftsmanship in bronze and iron. A vintage Hires Root Beer barrel from the 1930s will shortly dispense our home-made root beer recipe in tall chilled mugs, “on draught “ as it were. New systems, sundaes and soda clerks will signal the start of spring…stay tuned!

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