Volume 19 • Issue 20 | Sept. 29 - Oct. 5, 2006
Downtown Express photos by Elisabeth Robert
The Soda Shop is a popular after-school hangout for Stuyvesant students.
New store cracks Downtown market with egg creams
By Lori Haught
The Soda Shop, 125 Chambers St., is satisfying the cravings of a generation.
With a blend of seltzer, Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate syrup and ice cold milk they are bringing back something that was virtually lost, the authentic New York Egg Cream.
While the origins of the drink lie shrouded in the myth of the turn of the century and the name implies ingredients that, to the best of recorded history, were never used, one thing is certain: co-founders Craig Bero and Linda Donahue love the egg cream.
Donahue said the their authentic soda fountain, ice cold ingredients, and the fact that they stir the drink by hand, not by machine, gives the Soda Shop egg cream the same flavor as the turn of the century version. Not many places, if any, make the drink in such an authentic fashion, she said.
The Bero and Donahue met through egg cream several years ago when Donahue, an attorney, got a call from her mother in Florida who told her about a New York Times article on someone in the Village making egg creams.
“She said, ‘I know you love egg creams,’” Donahue said of her mother’s conversation with her.
A native New Yorker, she had moved to Florida with her parents as a small child and had grown-up on her mother’s homemade egg creams.
“I went to find the man making the egg creams and I found Craig,” Donahue said. “We called my mom and a friendship was born.”
Bero both loves 29 egg cream and what it represents: Old New York.
The idea to bring back a bit of the past came several years later. The two were concentrating on the West Village, since both live there and Bero had owned several businesses there already.
“My office is close by here,” Donahue said. “I saw the fixtures [in this building] and called Craig because he was always looking for wood. I didn’t even think about renting it.”
As an after thought, however, the two decided to see what the location had to offer.
“We got really lucky in terms of our location here,” Donahue said.
“It’s an amazing place to be right now,” Bero said. He is ecstatic to be a part of the “terrifically exciting rebirth of Downtown.” World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein hired the shop to cater the street party celebration for the opening of 7 W.T.C. a few months ago.
One thing that comes out through the dark hard woods, the candy counter with everything from Beeman’s Gum to Pop Rocks, the antique soda bottles and the nearly authentic soda counter is the effort the two have made to hearken back to the golden age of the New York City soda shop.
Bero is currently researching the building and the land so the design of the new back room, which is meant to support larger parties with advanced notice, reflects the history of the space as well as New York.
People come from all over the city to get an egg cream and an affordable meal.
“I read in New York about an answer to my endless searching!” one customer exclaimed to Donahue. “No one makes an egg cream right; you make an egg cream right!”
Another woman, from Brooklyn, had brought her daughter and two young grandchildren in for a taste of the past.
“You get such a variety,” Donahue said. “That lady probably grew up on egg creams, maybe her daughter had some homemade ones, and the little kids have probably never had one before.”
The Soda Shop also does a good business with nearby Stuyvesant High School students.
“Teens can bring dates in here,” Bero said. Thanks to the affordable prices and laid-back atmosphere, everyone feels welcome. Someone coming home from a not so glamorous days work can come in and sip soda and enjoy good service and good food.
“It’s challenging to meet all different people’s needs,” Donahue said. “You have to find a common denominator.”
That common thread seems to be nostalgia, whether it be an older generation looking to recall a flavor from their youth or a newer one looking to create a different set of memories with a taste of the old.