There’s a place on Mission Street where you can buy discount luggage, and a few doors down, cheap produce. Now there’s also a shop to indulge your sweet side.
“If you want to stick with local, I would go with Reeds,” said Aaron Dolson, co-owner of the newest Mission Street novelty, The Fizzary, which sells soft-drinks and candy.
On this Tuesday morning, Dolson helped a local customer select the best ginger ale among the hundreds of other choices in the store’s carbonated roster.
His customer, Francisco Sanchez, was there to find a few obscure local drinks. So Dolson guided him through their curated glass bottle collection of cola, soda and just plain Coke. And he did it like a wise wine connoisseur: talk of food pairings and flavor notes was dropped into the consultation.
“A great grape flavor? Well, I would recommend this one,” Dolson said as he picked up a stocky bottle that held a deep violet liquid. “Most sodas are 160 calories…”
Sanchez cut in— “At our place, people are not going to care about the calories, they just want the taste.”
Sanchez had come to the right guy.
Dolson and his partner Taylor Peck, whose name is attached to the store’s house soda, Taylor’s Tonics, are not just there to make a buck off your need for a sugary fix from a cold case. The pair really care about offering the Mission a quality soda.
Dolson led his customer around the small shop with his flashy squared-off long toe boots clicking on the floor as he walked. In an ink-black furry eye patch, and a felt Bowler cap with a scrappy bunch of white feathers stuck into the band, Dolson appears as eclectic as his drink collection. Though, he speaks seriously about soda pop.
The partners opened The Fizzary at the end of August, and they sell $2 single bottles and $4 four packs. The store’s walls are lined with small shelves in deep-pocketed cases. In the middle there’s a selection of old school candies held in Ball jars and small metal buckets. Dolson and Peck have picked soda in studded glass bottles, and colas with beautifully designed labels that are stylish enough to display in your kitchen after drinking or before recycling. But when it comes to sweets, it’s all about the taste, and The Fizzary covers the flavor bases: Royal Crown soda, real-sugar Coke, old school Berghoff root beer from Chicago, and experiments like rhubarb, huckleberry and shandy.
“My crown jewel in the store is this bottle of original Dublin Dr. Pepper,” Dolson said holding a short bottle filled with an 121-year-old recipe. “It’s made with imperial brand sugar from Texas, and we’ll only have these through the holidays.”
Theirs is an unapologetic sale of liquid candy in a time when San Francisco law blocks soda from being sold in vending machines, New York City has issued a ban on large-size sodas in restaurants, movie theaters and ball parks and states around the country earn millions from excise or sales taxes on soda because they want you to buy less of it. So if you’re waiting for The Fizzary’s owners to rationalize offering drinks and snacks that could potentially make you unhealthy, obese or more, Dolson in particular won’t hesitate, and he’ll do it like this.
“We always put a footnote,” Dolson explained. “In fact it’s going on the front windows— ‘be sure to brush your teeth!’ But we are a boutique type store, we are here to sell a four pack of soda to someone who will go home and drink maybe one a week for four weeks, not take a six pack home and drink five of them in one night.”
Despite tax, ban or health conscious outcries, people will always want something sweet, Dolson adds.
“We can’t stop that. It is never going to go out of style, but we can change what kind of sugar goes in and and how much will be used,” he said.
Turns out Dolson’s a good authority on soda’s dark side. He grew up and once ran a mayoral campaign in Denton, Texas where over half the surrounding county’s restaurants sell fast food. The state collects 6.25 percent on sales from soft-drinks. But Dolson’s tastes fall far from his hometown food issues—he prefers water, and might down a soda only occasionally. 60 to 70 percent of the beverages in the store contain real cane sugar, and there’s not a lot of high fructose corn syrup to be found.
“We are doing what they did 100 years ago with soda,” Dolson said. “Our whole concept is the Old World druggist who sold medicine along with sodas, milkshakes and candies.”
When he says medicine, he really means it. The Fizzary will soon carry bulk dried herbs and mushrooms customers can combine with syrup and carbonated water at home. And many of the ingredients Dolson and Taylor Peck mix in their house sodas have purported medicinal qualities like aloe vera, Yerba Maté and fermented ginger.
Behind the colorful bottles of soda and candy, is about 1500-square feet of community space the owners plan to use to host non-profit events. They have interest from local knitting groups, and last Thursday the room was used by San Francisco documentary filmmaker Theo Rigby and his project Immigrant Nation. It’s an interactive film festival in the making about immigration issues, a topic close to Dolson’s heart.
“We employ a lot of migrant workers to run our business,” Dolson said of their operations from the Mission down to their Los Angeles bottling site. “We feel a strong pull to support the migrant worker community and to give back as much as they give to us.”
The Fizzary is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 2949 Mission St. at 25th.