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I expected Wally and the Beav

December 3, 2009
Fairley's Pharmacy on Sandy

Fairley's Pharmacy has a soda fountain! (Orin O'Neill photos)

As I’ve said, there are still lots of mom & pop businesses in Portland, and lots of those businesses are pharmacies. But I did a double take the first time I passed Fairley’s Pharmacy at NE 72nd and Sandy. And not because the sign says “Rx Delivery” (though that’s unusual these days). The sign also says “Soda Fountain.”

When I was a kid, drug stores were just starting to get rid of their soda fountains and lunch counters. With daily specials like liver & onions, it wasn’t difficult to see why, though the stores were probably more interested in space to sell more cheap junk.

But Portland is a preserve for many things old-skool, so the only surprise here is that there aren’t more places like Fairley’s.

The place is small, the counter is prominent.

Fairley's counter

I sat down on one of the stools and studied the menu. Sundaes, malts, yes, it’s all here.

Chocolate-banana milkshake

In spite of the serious chill in the air, I decide to go for a chocolate-banana milkshake. Once the person behind the pharmacy counter realized I wasn’t waiting for a prescription, someone came to take my order.

No soft-serve here, there was a Vespa ET-green milkshake machine behind the counter. A stainless steel container was filled with actual chocolate ice cream and actual milk (and, okay, banana flavoring), which was blended to a milkshake consistency. The milkshake was served in a classic milkshake glass, accompanied by the stainless steel container. Which had more milkshake in it!

Fairley’s is not a total time warp. The menu includes all the usual espresso drinks, and in addition to Willamette Week free copies of Just Out, Portland’s gay & lesbian news weekly, are stacked on a counter by the window.

Oh, and there’s free Wi-Fi. But no dog Snuggies. Favicon

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5 Comments
  1. December 3, 2009 6:22 am

    I remember as a child having a cherry coke at a place not too unlike that. I thought I was in heaven.

    Cool post, Orin.

  2. karen permalink
    December 3, 2009 8:52 am

    Nice to see there are still a few of those places left. In fact, there is one in Mandan, North Dakota that is just as it was in 1957 when I first went there. There is nothing like a milkshake made at a real drugstore counter and – soft serve is to ice cream what Velveeta is to cheese.

  3. December 3, 2009 9:03 pm

    Finally, something that Portland has that Key West no longer does. Aside from the rain which you can keep along with gray skies. I’ll bet my fish sandwich beats yours, though.

  4. December 3, 2009 9:53 pm

    I’ll bet your fish sandwich beats anything in Portland, too, if the fish ‘n chips I’ve seen here are any indication. Shiny, greasy coating on some mysterious white fish they probably used to use to make fertilizer. Ick. I miss The Spud…

  5. December 5, 2009 4:26 pm

    Old School Soda Fountain & Free WiFi nice combo of old & new!!

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