FRUITLAND - If taking your sweetheart to the local soda fountain or going there with your parents or grandparents top your fondest memories, Sweet Willy’s in Fruitland may be the means of reliving those memories today.
Located inside of the Prescription Pad on N. Whitley Avenue, like many soda shoppes were in the mid-20th century, Sweet Willy’s is operated by Patrick Nauman, owner of Weiser Classic Candies.
Nauman said opening a soda shoppe had long been a dream of his.
“It’s always kinda been a dream to have an old-fashioned ice cream soda fountain; When I bought the candy store in Weiser, that building was originally a drugstore and a soda fountain,” said Nauman. “It’s kinda lit a passion, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Despite having the candy store in Weiser, Nauman felt having the soda shoppe there would’ve been counterproductive.
“I didn’t necessarily wanna compete with what I already have going in Weiser; Even though it’s really kind of a whole different concept in Weiser, it would’ve had some competition value there.”
According to Nauman, Sweet Willy’s combines the classic concept of a retro soda shoppe with locally sourced ingredients and house-made toppings.
“We pride ourselves on using as much Idaho product as we can; Our ice cream for our ice cream sundaes and all that comes from a dairy in Idaho Falls. We use Idaho huckleberries in our huckleberry stuff, our milkshakes are made with cream fresh off the dairy as well.”
While the bulk of ingredients are sourced in Idaho, Nauman does pull a few from across the Snake River, including Oregon marionberries.
Nauman said the project has been a long time coming, along with the new Prescription Pad building.
“The Prescription Pad approached me about two years ago and asked me if I might be interested in developing this concept with them. It was just kind of a match made in heaven.”
The timing of the grand opening was an interesting time for Nauman, given the situation with the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
“Originally, we were gonna be open a little bit before that … some equipment delays, those kind of things, typical construction stuff. I was pretty confident that the stay-at-home order was gonna hit, after it hit in Ontario and Oregon, so I actually delayed our opening for a while as well … until that stay-at-home order lifted.”
Sweet Willy’s opened to the public on May 4, but had a soft opening on May 1.
Seating inside Sweet Willy’s is sparse, not necessarily because of the pandemic but rather because of the store’s layout.
“Southwest District Health, their new deal is to try and be ten feet apart as much as possible with the tables.”
Patio furniture has since been added to accommodate summer customers.
Already, Sweet Willy’s has a few best-selling hits; Nauman said the Fonz (a coffee-based ice cream soda) is making a buzz among customers, as is their Shirley Temple ice cream soda and their Boise-brewed root beer on-tap. Most of the sodas and freezes on the menu are named for icons of the 1950s or inspired from such, or for local icons.
Nauman notes that ice cream freezes (ice cream blended with soda) are hard to find today, which is why he features those.
“That takes me back to my youth and childhood, that was one that was a treat for my mom and I anytime that we used to go out and do stuff together,” Nauman said. “It’s like a dreamsicle on steroids.”
If you’re hungry, Sweet Willy’s also has several hot foods on the menu, such as hot dogs, chili, pretzels and walking tacos.
“We’re gonna bring in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches here pretty soon, too.”
Nauman expressed that the area’s family-friendly character makes it an ideal setting for this throwback concept.
“That’s really what we want to provide is something that anybody, any kid of any age whether they’re nine or ninety can feel comfortable with coming and bringing their kids and their grandkids and just having a good time.”
Nauman expressed gratitude for the help he got from the Prescription Pad, the support of Fruitland locals, as well as city staff.
“Even the folks at city hall have made the process of opening a business in Fruitland really easy to work with.”