I love an old-fashioned soda fountain, and I found a classic, where I could perch on a bar stool and sip a strawberry milkshake, in downtown Kingsville, Texas.
It didn’t hurt that the milkshake I got at Harrel’s Kingsville Pharmacy cost less than $4, either.
My friends and I wandered into the pharmacy after a visit to the King Ranch Saddle Shop last weekend. As we were piling back into our truck, I noticed a sign for the soda fountain in the window of the pharmacy across the street.
The four of us grabbed seats at the bar in Harrel’s Soda Fountain, located at the back of the pharmacy. When we flipped open the menu, we found prices straight out of the 1980s – $3.75 for a milkshake, a little more for a malt, about $5 for a plate of enchiladas, even less for a hamburger. We watched, amazed, as a server whipped up an enormous banana split that cost just $5.
And this after the soda fountain raised prices last year. In January 2023, the shop made the local TV news when it bumped the cost a hamburger from $2.75 to $3.75.
We ordered shakes and malts, and twirled on our seats as we took in the old-school ambiance of the place. Nearly every table was full; the metal malt-mixing machine hardly stopped buzzing.
The history of the Kingsville soda fountain
Nick Harrel Sr. opened the business in 1916 and added a soda fountain – which offered curb service – in the 1920s. Originally it seated just 25 people. Today there’s room for 75. The place wasn’t air conditioned until the 1940s.
Harrel’s grandson, pharmacist Nick Harrel III, recognizable for his handlebar mustache and colorful socks (they’re featured on the pharmacy’s page on Facebook regularly), runs the operation today.
Regulars come to Harrel’s, at 204 E. Kleberg Ave., for the cheap prices and local camaraderie. I loved that. But even more, I loved the blast of nostalgia I got with every slurp of my shake.