It is just before noon on a hot Saturday morning, and Grandin Village is humming. Traffic at the theatre is growing, and the Grandin Village Community Market is in full swing. At Pop’s Ice Cream and Soda Bar, just around the corner on Memorial, business is at a lazy pace and, for the moment, this is just fine with owners Brandon Davis and Anna Robertson.
Rather like time travel, stepping into the stone storefront of a former library only to find the 50’s-flavored soda shop can be delightfully nostalgic or simply welcoming. Formica tabletops, wooden booths, even favorite board games can be found here. Carl Perkins is playing in the background, a reflection of the overall theme but also a love of Davis’s, who is known to slap a mean standup bass when he’s not blasting the bagpipes.
Right now, however, the soda fountain discussion, a luxury seldom afforded the busy owners, is around cats and kittens. Robertson is debating herself aloud as to whether or not to keep a stray cat, rescued from behind the restaurant, and now the mother of four kittens. They already have three cats, and the prospect of fitting a fourth into the household draws comments from those sitting around the soda bar.
This is the calm before the storm. Later in the day the crowd will pick up, the children will become a bit livelier, and there will hardly be a moment to spare for any kind of discussion. Later still, it will be Record Night, and the soundtrack will reflect the taste of one of Robertson’s old friends, who is celebrating a birthday. “Lots of Rush and Talking Heads,” she says, laughing.
The swirl of activity reached fever pitch not so long ago, when Jerry Springer, then host of reality television show America’s Got Talent, showed up to check out The Wright Kids, a young and gifted sibling musical group from Franklin County who are regulars at Pop’s. Springer had promised to spend time with them when they were on the show.
“He was very nice,” said Davis. “He said [it] was the best malted milkshake he’s ever had.”
Celebrity endorsements aside, however, Pop’s was voted “Best Soda Fountain in the South” in a recent edition of Oxford American Magazine. With a huge selection of Homestead Creamery ice creams and tasty, imaginative soups and sandwiches, it’s not hard to imagine why the honor was bestowed, particularly on a hot Saturday morning with an espresso chip waffle cone in hand.
For Davis, however, the best part of the business is belonging.
“We like being a happy part of people’s lives, and being a positive place for families to go. Pop’s is a social place and we feel like a real part of the community,” said Davis.
Davis notes a lot of Realtors visit the shop. “This is a real selling point for the neighborhood.”
“We really care about who we call Pop’s people, our regulars. We like watching families having babies and watching the kids grow. It is really great,” Davis said.
Check out Pop’s online via their Facebook page, where there are videos of The Wright Kids and pictures of fun times. Just enter “Pop’s Ice Cream and Soda Bar” into the Facebook search function.