Eagle’s Store, located at the northeast entrance of Yellowstone Park, is the oldest business in West Yellowstone and Woolrich’s oldest customer west of the Mississippi. At the turn of the twentieth century and in the midst of the American gold rush, the Eagle family made a unique investment — adding a soda fountain to their small Montana storefront.
Prior to 1910, the family owned-and-operated store provided pioneer families with groceries, hardware, curios, dry goods and drugs. Today, not only is Eagle’s Store continuing to thrive, but that same soda fountain — and its long and colorful history — remains one of the store’s most enjoyable attractions.
Family records indicate that the Eagle’s Store soda fountain was purchased for $1,391.80 (the equivalent of $30,000 in today’s currency) from Liquid Carbonic Company of Minneapolis. Known for superior manufacturing using zinc and ceramic materials, Liquid Carbonic was one of three companies that dominated the soda fountain business in the early 1900’s, and was the first maker of liquid carbon dioxide in the Midwest.
Liquid Carbonic’s iceless soda fountain was patented in 1908 and quickly became a popular business venture for shop owners and pharmacists throughout the growing West. But it was a decade later that the heyday of soda fountains truly arrived … thanks largely to the advent of prohibition (1919). Soda fountains provided a needed social gathering point that filled the void left by closed bars and saloons.
Throughout the soda fountain era, when a shop owner purchased a soda fountain from the manufacturer or “went into the soda fountain business,” all they had to do was read the manual and concoct the sodas from a widely available recipe book. It was considered a sound and oftentimes profitable business venture, akin to owning a fast food restaurant franchise today.
Although Eagle’s Store focuses mainly on rugged outdoor clothing and gifts for West Yellowstone visitors, the soda fountain remains a popular, working attraction of the century-old store. Visitors enjoy seeing the ornate mahogany back bar complete with the original Coca-Cola mirror, as well as the original compartments used to store ice blocks for chilling ice cream and soda syrups.
While a proposed soda fountain expansion was never completed, there are still more than 20 stools available — ensuring that there’s always more than enough room for a chocolate sundae at Eagle’s Store.