Take a sip at Whaley’s Pharmacy’s old-fashioned soda fountain.
Swinging open the glass door and stepping onto the checkered black-and-white floor, customers of Whaley’s East End Drug find themselves in a place where time has no rules. The pharmacy’s focal point is its historic soda fountain, still standing as it has for more than 80 years and complete with red-top stools butting up to the bar. The soda fountain can give anyone a strong feeling of nostalgia, bringing together the old and young alike for a sweet treat.
For decades, countless sugary concoctions have been enjoyed at that bar — old-fashioned flavored sodas, classic root beer fl oats, or sodas topped with scoops of Central Dairy Ice Cream ranging in flavors from vanilla to salted caramel with coffee crunch. Today, the walls of Whaley’s East End Drug are lined with modern medical supplies such as thermotherapy body wraps, baby thermometers, diabetic supplies, and foot insoles — along with all the over-the-counter medications customers seek. There’s even a small section for cards.
“I just love the history and soda fountain side of it.”— GIL DEARMON
Red Whaley, the drugstore’s original owner, opened Whaley’s in 1943 with the sole intention of offering the best prescription service in town. Before opening Whaley’s, a pharmacy already existed at the location. The soda fountain was also in operation, giving local teenagers a fun hangout spot. At that time, the soda fountain was more of a small restaurant for the neighborhood, serving a small menu of food in addition to floats, shakes, and sodas.
“The fountain has continued to be a tradition for a lot of families, and we have so many out-of-town visitors that stop in and take a little step back in time,” says Stacy Welling, owner of Whaley’s. “We felt the nostalgia was even more special by providing a small level of ice cream service. It is just a fun piece of history and a nice neighborhood treat since we are just far enough from downtown.”
“The fountain has continued to be a tradition for a lot of families, and we have so many out-of-town visitors that stop in and take a little step back in time.”— STACY WELLING
Dressed in a red polo shirt and adorning a warm smile behind the soda fountain bar, Gil Dearmon, who has worked at Whaley’s East End Drug for eight years, recommends the cherry Coke for anyone new to the soda fountain. As he pumps the cherry syrup into a white cup, he says the syrup sets Whaley’s cherry Coke apart from anything else out there. People who have traveled the world come back to tell him nothing else compares. Gil splashes one, two maraschino cherries into the drink, and he even throws in an extra cherry for first-time customers — he’s just that kind of guy.
The drugstore soda fountain gained popularity across the country in the 1890s as a way to supplement income. Soda fountains served a dual purpose though; pharmacists also used the syrups to hide medicine’s bitter, sometimes, revolting taste. Now, Whaley’s soda fountain is a timeless and historic piece of Jefferson City that many near and far treasure. Whether he’s serving brand-new Jefferson City residents or longtime community members, Gil takes pride in working at Whaley’s East End Drug and the soda fountain. To him, people aren’t just a number or a customer, they’re friends.
“I just love the history and soda fountain side of it,” he says. “I never saw anything like it. It has a vibe to it and makes you proud to support Jefferson City.”
Stacy has felt the same pride in her hometown pharmacy for her whole life. Her father, Darryl Hubble, became a partner in the business in the late 1970s, several years after Red Whaley and his son, Jim, opened the southwest location in 1973. Darryl later purchased Whaley’s in 1998.
“Whaley’s always had a great reputation for really caring for their customers and knowing them personally,” says Stacy, who officially joined the business in 2005. “My dad was such an amazing pharmacist. To watch the way people admired and respected him for his knowledge and professionalism always made me proud. I remember coming to the store when I was pretty young during the evenings to bring my dad dinner and talk to him while he worked. I remember all of the staff and how nice they always were to my brother and I.”
The business was bursting by the time Stacy came on board, and the father-daughter team expanded Whaley’s to the west end of town, opening Whaley’s West Side Pharmacy. With the expansion, Whaley’s doubled its staff to more than 40 employees.
“I had always felt an inner passion for their small business and how dedicated (my parents) were to see-
ing it grow and taking care of their employees,” she says. “I was excited to use my marketing and business experience to support that growth, as well as it being a long-term retirement plan for my parents.”
Stacy credits Whaley’s long-term success to its commitment to excellent customer service, regular innovation, flexibility, and ability to provide unique services to patients.
“Our staff is truly amazing,” she says. “They provide a level of patient care that stands out in our industry. They are professional experts who truly care about the people that walk through our doors every day, and I’m so grateful for their commitment to our patients and our community.”
As for the soda fountain, Stacy says it’s simply a part of who they are at Whaley’s.
“It’s our roots and where we started from,” she says. “It’s a piece of the history of our community, but also of the pharmacy business, and it is special and fun to maintain that for as long as we can.”