Breathing new life into a downtown fixture

(Above) Jessica and Austin Wood with their children, Charlie and Bauer.

Soda fountain and more will return to downtown cornerstone 

Memories of a special place
Think cherry (lemon, lime, chocolate, vanilla) coke for a nickel, a soda fountain, Peppermint Patties or Nut Clusters, and crowded wooden booths with linoleum tops. The Clear Lake Corner Drug - what a great place to hang out after school or in the winter to get warmed up after a day of ice boating or ice skating on the lake. Remember a mud for fifteen cents (vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and vanilla malt powder sprinkled on top served in a Coke glass) or a chocolate upside down sundae (chocolate ice cream with marshmallow topping)? If you had an extra nickel, it went into the jukebox. The guys remember going downstairs to Floyd’s to shoot pool (snooker) or, depending on the weather, sitting on the rail of the stairs going down to Floyd’s. The Corner Drug, Floyd’s, and the rail are gone but not the memories. - from the Clear Lake Alumni Association’s All-Class Reunion book, 2011.

by Michelle Watson

Clear Lake residents love their beautiful and historical downtown area, but one building that is a cornerstone of Main Street has been vacant for a number of years. Some may know the building as the former Thrifty White Pharmacy or Corner Drug Store.  Some may even remember the building as the Cerro Gordo County Bank.  Thanks to Jessica Wood, of Clear Lake, the building is soon to have new life breathed back in to it.

“It is such a beautiful building and I wanted to see activity here again,” said Jessica. “I feel there is a lot of unrealized potential here.”

Jessica, along with the help of her husband, Austin, have big plans for the building.  She will lease sections of the lower level for retail and is planning to turn the upstairs into either residences or office spaces.

“With the help of the city administrator and the Main Street Incubator program there is help available for lease payments for new tenants to get them started,” said Jessica.

The community will be happy to know that Jessica will be bringing back the old soda fountain that was a nostalgic favorite of many Clear Lake residents.  The soda fountain will be called, Charlie’s Soda Fountain, after Jessica and Austin’s three year old daughter.  The area will be expanded to include some high top tables, old-fashioned bulk candies and special merchandise reminiscent of a soda fountain.

“We’ll be bringing back the famous muds and the green river phosphates, in addition to gourmet sodas, malts and other ice cream favorites,” said Jessica.

Jessica will use some of the equipment from the soda fountain that was left with the building.  She said she has had a lot of fun researching soda fountains.

“I’ve learned that the term ‘soda jerk’ comes from jerking the handing on the soda machine and that ‘hold the hail’ means no ice,” said Jessica.

Charlie’s Soda Fountain will be opening this summer.  Hours will be noon to nine or 10 p.m., six days a week.

Jessica, who is originally from Minneapolis, has a business management degree from Gustavus Adolphus College and she also owns IAbnb, a business that offers Airbnb rentals and long term rentals in Clear Lake.  Austin, who is originally from Garner, is a realtor with Schoneman Realtors, in Clear Lake.  In addition to Charlie, the couple also have a five-year-old son, Bauer.

“I have faith in this little town and we wanted to plant our roots here,” said Jessica.  “A lot of people have stepped up and offered advice on how to do this business ourselves.  We have our vision and I think it will all work.”

Jessica is still looking for renters for the retail spaces.  She can be reached at 952-457-4572 for leasing opportunities.

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