A rapid and frenetic pace of construction may have transformed much of the town of Jackson in the last five years, rendering parts of it unrecognizable, but on Town Square one piece of history and local culture is holding steady.
All year round, a bustling crowd of diners can be seen enjoying burgers, milkshakes, beers and other delightful comfort foods offered at the Jackson Drug and Original Soda Fountain. Many visitors may not know it, but they are partaking in one of the Town Square’s rich and long-running traditions.
The Jackson Drug was a pharmacy originally on the east side of Town Square, operated by Bruce Porter. Bruce had lived in Jackson prior to World War I during summers while attending pharmaceutical school. After serving in WWI, he returned and opened a drug store, which also sold gear such as fishing supplies in 1919. By 1937, it was ensconced in its current location, a recognizable stone building on the corner of Cache and Deloney streets. For 40 more years, the twin businesses of pharmacy and soda fountain were a hub for the community on the square, but in 1978, the building and business was sold. However, the soda fountains, pharmacy and general store continued to operate until 2001, when the building was sold again. The community asset and small-town character it signifies could have vanished forever, but for the case of this institution, that was not meant to be.
In 2010, Porter’s grandson, Robert Gill, reacquired the building, and by 2018, his great-grandchildren (Robert’s children) Nikki, Jessica and Patrick Gill had reopened the family business, after an almost two decade hiatus.
“We had this dream to bring back our great-grandfather’s institution; we all had so many memories of this place,” says Nikki. Now, back in its prominent, historic spot, Jackson Drug and Original Soda Fountain is a once again bustling, popular hub of local culture.
“When we reopened, locals, these old-timers, came in and some had tears in their eyes,” Nikki says. “People were so emotional about it, it really made all the long nights and double shifts and endless hours mean something to us.”
The restaurant itself harkens back to an era where the Town Square and its businesses were a community hub, and quality food was locally sourced from neighbors. “It’s really nice to bring back a part of old Jackson — simpler times — back to the community,” says Jessica.
Step inside, and the vibe is unmistakably vibrant, cozy and welcoming, with a wonderful original tile bar as centerpiece, and original century-old tile floors. The menu offers delicious, high-quality, local food, bookended by local beef — the Gill fam- ily also own and operate the Jackson Hole Hereford Ranch, just south of town, which was a driving factor in expanding the menu beyond the soda fountain into a full-service restaurant, according to the Gills. “We wanted to highlight another local institution in local ranching — our local beef operation — also started by our great-grandfather in 1928,” Jessica says.
Local beef is complemented by the other star of the menu, the dairy products, which are supplied by Reed’s Dairy in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The ice cream itself is made onsite, according to the Gills. And based on the crowds packing the restaurant, burgers, milkshakes or both are a menu item worth taking a special trip to Town Square to enjoy this slice of Jackson history.