You Could Own Wyoming’s Oldest Soda Fountain
Chugwater Soda Fountain, Wyoming's oldest and most famous soda fountain and restaurant is up for sale.
This is your chance.
After a facelift and a chance to reestablish itself the Chugwater Soda Fountain, formally the town's drugstore and soda fountain, needs someone who understands and appreciates the old place.
It's not that the owners want to sell the place.
They just have too much going on in their lives to keep up with it.
The old place is a favorite stop for interstate travelers and a must-see for those attending the Chugwater Chili Festival, along with rodeos and other Chugwater events.
This is a turn-key operation.
The little restaurant is in the best condition in decades, along with a staff that loves working there.
Keep reading for a little history of Wyoming's oldest soda fountain.
Like many people, I used to rocket by Chugwater, Wyoming, amazed at the cut the river made in the landscape, those beautiful bluffs above, and curious about the tiny town below.
How the heck did it get the name Chugater?
One day I decided to stop, just to see if I might be missing anything.
There was not much down there.
The only open business in the very tiny downtown area was the old soda fountain.
Curiosity led to lunch and a chocolate malt to wash the burger down.
The old place was a step back in time, it was wonderful, but starting to show its age and needed some help.
A few years later local homesteaders Jill and Christian Winger bought the old place and got to work.
The floor was replaced. A new decorative metal ceiling was added. The old soda fountain was given a proper kitchen in the back, rather than a hotplate off to the side of the ice cream bar. A new coat of paint out front and the old place was new again.
Jill also updated the menu, making it more than just a basic burger joint. Those famous malts are the best they have ever been.
In my line of work, I have to travel the state, often. If I'm driving by Chugwater I make sure to stop in. My name fills the guest book with my travels north and south along Interstate 25.
When I saw that Jill had posted on her Facebook page that she and her husband were putting the old place up for sale I reached out.
Your support through this whole process has meant a lot Glenn.
Thank you for that!
I still have a deep fondness for it and look forward to helping it make a smooth transition to the new buyer.
If we didn't have soooo many other irons in the fire we'd definitely keep it! (Jill Winger).
Let's go back and look at the Chugwater Soda Fountian renovation.
On her YouTube page, she writes:
As young newlyweds, my husband Christian and I craved something more than the typical American existence. So we bought a tumbledown old farmhouse and subsequently stumbled upon the modern homesteading lifestyle.
Something about the Chugwater Soda Fountain captured her imagination, as did the tiny town of Chugwater, Wyoming.
I just couldn't stop thinking about it.
You can watch Jill's whole journey to restore the Soda Fountain
She admitted that she had no idea what she was doing. She has never owned a place in food service before. But there is a passion and a dream, so she and her husband are jumping in headfirst.
The bar and soda fountain was built back in England and somehow made its way to Wyoming, where it was installed in what was, at the time, Chugwater's drug store. The floors are a mess and don't get me started on some of the cracks I've seen in the old building.
Let the renovations begin. Not just of the old soda fountain, but of the house they purchased in Chugwater.
Strange side note: they found out that the people who used to own the house they now live in used to own the soda fountain too. He was the town pharmacist
I feel like the town needs somebody to believe in it a little bit.
Jill's choice of decorations in the old shop showcases the history of Chugwater.
From old medicines when the place was a pharmacy, to the local Chugwater newspaper now framed and hanging in the restrooms.
Let's have a look at the treasures hidden in the Soda Fountain.
Old Medicine Of The Chugwater Wyoming Drugstore
Gallery Credit: Glenn Woods
Reading The Past - Chugwater Wyoming Newspaper
Gallery Credit: Glenn Woods
THE HISTORY & REBIRTH OF CHUGWATER WYOMING
Gallery Credit: Glenn Woods
These days people stop in Chugwater Wyoming to use the toilets at the interstate rest stop.
They might fill their tanks at the local gas station. There is only one of those.
A chuckling tourist might post for a picture, acting as if they are chugging water by the town sign.
What used to be an important stop for stagecoaches, and trains, and later a crossroads for cars, was bypassed by the interstate and was dying.
But a new generation is taking over, and they have a vision.
Recently, while having lunch there, I heard the sound of an old telephone ring.
The first ring did not get my attention.
Many people have that old sound programmed in on their cell phones.
But the second ring had me thinking, 'HOLD ON! That sounds REAL!'
I looked up to see someone from the kitchen reach around the corner and pick up the receiver of an old rotary phone, hangin' on the wall.
'That old phone is new,' I thought. ' I was here last week and it wasn't there.'
The lady took a lunch order from the phone, using the long receiver cord to walk over to the register and find a pad and pen.
My memories took me back to when I was a kid and my parents got us a cord that long. I laughed, delighted in my new freedom, as I spoke to someone on the other end. "I can walk around the entire kitchen with this thing."
Back then we never imagined being as mobile as we are today.
The way the ladies working there were talking it sounded like the credit card machine could not process a sale while the phone was in use. They are probably dialing out on the same line.
Remember the old dial-up days?
If someone was on the internet then the household phone was tied up.
I grabbed my more modern cell phone and sent the owner of the establishment a note.
Just in case you are wondering, yes, people can dial out too.
If we asked a much younger person to make a call on that thing, would they know how?
Old rotary phones operate differently than today's phones, so, they might be a little confused at first.
About a week ago the conversation of old rotary phones came up on my morning Wyoming talk show. I asked the listeners if rotary phones still worked.
If they do, can you still dial information?
What happens when you dial the operator?
One listener called in from near Chugwater saying that she tried for me and 411 (information) was an automated voice.
A listener In Thermopolis tried "0" for Operator and was also sent to an automated voice.
Someone in Casper said that 411 for Natrona County had a recording that said, "Service not available in this area."
I finished my burger and watched other customers stand by the phone to have their picture taken with it.
Great move Jill. if you need a business phone at Wyoming's oldest soda fountain, why not have fun with it?