by Ann Angel Eberhardt
Crick’s Pharmacy and Soda Fountain
Among the fond memories of anyone who lived in Sharpsville in the 1930s through the 1960s was that of Crick’s Pharmacy, “Home of the Famous Coffee Stir.” Crick’s was one of those old-fashioned corner drugstores with a wooden floor and pressed tin ceiling, where patent medicines were lined up behind glass-paned cupboards and a soda counter was located just inside the door to the right, complete with a “soda jerk” who prepared your drinks. Tables and chairs where placed in front of the counter where customers could relax and savor their soda fountain treats. The table tops and chair seats were round and made of wood. The legs of the tables and chairs and the chair backs were of twisted and bent iron wire. Children were not left out: One of the table-and-chair sets was adorably child-size.
Was Crick’s counter lined with upholstered swivel stools? Did the soda jerk wear a bow tie and white clothing and hat? Was there a menu listing griddle sandwiches, hot dogs and chili dogs? Or banana boats and sundaes? I don’t recall but all this was usually part of the soda fountain picture. What I do remember were ice cream sodas, milkshakes, malted milkshakes, cherry and vanilla cokes or phosphates, root beer floats and most clearly, the famous coffee stirs. The coffee stirs were so desired that my neighbors would send us kids to Crick’s with coins in hand to purchase the drinks for them as a kind of early take-out service.
(For more coffee stir memories and a recipe, see the blog, Coffee Stir, on this site. See also, Uniquely Sharpsville: The Coffee Stir, an article in the July 2017 Newsletter for the Sharpsville Area Historical Society. The story is accompanied by an image of the original recipe as well as a 1953 photograph of George Mahaney and Sid Owen at the counter of Crick’s soda fountain.)
The IOOF Temple
The history of Crick’s Pharmacy and the building it occupied, took several twists and turns. According to Ralph C. Mehler II, SAHS board member,
“It was the original Odd Fellows Temple, built in 1902 and used by the IOOF [International Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization] until they constructed a new building on Walnut Street in 1912. The IOOF building stood catty-corner from the bank/Opera House at Mercer and Shenango streets. Skip Reichard ran his drugstore there [beginning c. 1915] and was the inventor of the coffee stir. When he died in 1939, his wife, Gert Knapp Reichard (sister of my great-grandmother), operated the drugstore until she sold it to Obie Cricks in 1952. She died a year later.”
Another early inhabitant of the IOOF Temple was E.W. Hawk’s Confectionery which sold, among other things, fruits, tobacco and cigars, as advertised on the window.
The Further Evolution of Crick’s
“Obie Cricks then built a new, modern drugstore across Mercer Avenue in 1960. It still served coffee stirs and had those bent wire chairs and tables in the fountain area (including child-sized ones which I fondly remember). At some point, Obie’s son Charlie took over. He then, in partnership with Dick Stigliano and Gary Garrett, formed Greenwood Pharmacy, a regional chain of drugstores. Greenwood was sold in the approximately early 1990s to a national chain [Eckhard]…which eventually became part of Rite Aid [64 N. Mercer Avenue]. You would really have to be an old-timer to refer to the current Rite Aid as ‘Crick’s.’ The IOOF building would have been torn down by the early 1970s as part of Urban Renewal.”
Other Sharpsville Pharmacies
Ralph Mehler sent these results from research on Sharpsville pharmacies in city directories in the collection of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society:
“A review of the City Directories shows that there were two pharmacies in Sharpsville for much of the 20th century. The earliest appearance I see for Fred K. Reichard is in a 1913 city directory. In a 1907 directory, at this same location was a D.H. Beck; prior to that in 1903 was an A. A. Reichard (no apparent relation to Fred, though). His competitor was McFarland’s Pharmacy located at 5 W. Main Street (where the First National Bank branch is now). About 1957 this became Zickar’s. McFarland’s was originally located in the early 1910s on N. Walnut Street. The proprietor was Robert L. McFarland, who died in 1935…. Robert’s father, Winfield S. McFarland is listed as both a physician and a druggist at 49 Main Street. I’m not sure whether this was a home-office from which he also dispensed prescriptions, or if he had a drugstore.“
More About Soda Fountains
There was a reason that soda fountains were located in drugstores. In the 1850s, people went to the drugstore for drinks that would ease or cure their ailments. At first, those drinks were used to cover the taste of the medication that would often include ingredients such as caffeine and cocaine.
Three events led to the birth of the soda fountain: In 1880 the carbonated drink was invented. Then in 1914, Congress passed a law against selling cocaine and opiates over the counter. And in 1920s Prohibition closed the bars. For these reasons, soda fountain drinks were touted as “non-intoxicating and delicious treats.”
Beginning in the 1970s, mass-produced canned soft drinks, an increasingly mobile society and prepackaged supermarket ice cream contributed to a rapid decline in the popularity of the soda fountain.
Both Reichard’s and Crick’s Pharmacies will always be highlights in the history of mid-twentieth-century Sharpsville, not only for the drugstores’ iconic coffee stirs but because they and their soda fountain represented a different kind of culture, when the booming prosperity of the post-war years helped to create a widespread sense of stability, contentment and general harmony in both large and small towns of America.
See Also COFFEE STIR
– Ann Angel Eberhardt, (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ,
with the assistance of Ralph C. Mehler II (SHS 1980), Sharpsville, PA,
Eric Bombeck (SHS 1979), South Pymatuning, PA, and Wikipedia.