A Jackson Tradition

13 Jan 2019

Gill Sisters Reopen Historic Eatery

Winter 2018/2019

Written By: Christopher Bancroft | Images: Lindley Rust

The original stools and countertops from 1919 were polished to a fresh shine as Nikki and Jessica Gill reopened the doors to Jackson Drug. After nearly 17 years, the shop that was once a Jackson staple was brought back to life by the same family who opened its doors nearly a century ago.

Nikki and Jessica are sisters, and their family has been ranching in the Jackson area since the early 1900s. Their great-grandfather, Bruce Porter, was the first pharmacist in Jackson, and he opened Jackson Drug in 1919. While supplying the town with necessary remedies to cure ailments, Porter was also raising cattle on his ranch, called the Jackson Hole Hereford Ranch. Porter worked both the ranch and Jackson Drug for decades, building the two businesses through the 1900s.

Known for milkshakes, sandwiches, and pretzels, Jackson Drug was a common watering hole for Jacksonites throughout the 1900s. The stonewalled corner store was a favored stop for locals and tourists alike.

In 2001, the Jackson Drug building changed ownership, turning into a carpet shop after nearly a century as a drug store and eatery. However, the
nostalgic memories of milkshakes sliding across the countertops kept the Gill sisters hoping for an opportunity to bring back the family business. In
July, their dream became a reality, and they opened their doors in the peak season of the tourist rush.

Both sisters acknowledged the challenges of reopening Jackson Drug during peak season, including swarms of customers, a competitive labor force, and finding the general flow of a newly opened restaurant. But the mission to revive a former Jackson staple is rooted in more than just monetary gain for the sisters.

“So much of our childhood has been lost, so reopening it has meant bringing back a feeling of ‘Old Jackson’ to the community,” Nikki says.

Ranching runs in the Gill family blood, and the sisters wanted to integrate their ranch into the shop, so they decided to use only Jackson Hole Hereford beef. “Pasture to plate” as Nikki coined it. “All the beef used in the food is raised only a couple miles south of Jackson Drug,” she says. They also decided  to use the same brand of ice cream maker—an Emery Thompson—as their great-grandfather did.

The Gill sisters plan to continue the tradition of a friendly smile and satisfying food that their great-grandfather originally started a century ago. “We want to keep rolling with the way it is now,” Nikki says.

Using the original business concept to bring a true piece of Jackson history back to the Town Square, they slide sandwiches, ice cream, and soft pretzels across the counters in the historic stone building, along with many new additions like burgers. They hope that by bringing back memories of a simpler time they can simultaneously create new ones for generations to come.

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