The 500 block of Main Street has a new soda jerk shop. Partners John Volpé and Don Warfe opened the shop in developer Roger Trettel’s building (formerly Perk’s). The business is located just around the corner from their other joint venture, Just Fries. Earlier today, John was manning the operation (Head Jerk) with a couple of co-workers who were learning the ropes. He told me that this was not exactly your average ice cream shop, since as far as he was aware, their offerings were completely unique to the area. I would have to agree with him.
I asked John what he suggested I try, and he pointed to the New York Style Egg Cream, one of rocker Lou Reed’s favorites (RIP). He also hinted that I try one of the retro Italian cream sodas (loads of flavors). Not being able to decide, I went with both (sample sizes). The egg cream (there’s no egg in it) was a mild chocolatey, creamy, smooth drink that was splashed with seltzer. Lou Reed was apparently fond of its silky nature. The egg cream was not cloyingly sweet, and was actually somewhat refreshing and energizing. Seeing that I was on my bike, the egg cream was a good call – prefect refresher. But it was the mango Italian cream soda with whip cream (called a cremosa) that really tantalized my taste buds. That too was infused with a bubbly seltzer. Man, was it good. Once again, not overly sweet and syrupy – simply bold and refreshing… the perfect midday treat.
John and Don are looking to bring the old world, retro, simple lifestyle back to an age that is sometimes overly complicated and agitating. As the presidential campaigners were swarming downtown Buffalo earlier today, this quaint shop called Jerk’s was doing its best to bring to this city a throwback business with no pomp and circumstance. It’s these types of businesses that will help to make Buffalo great again. John and Don put a lot of thought into this business, which speaks for itself. The product is fun, inviting, different and delicious. “We’re getting the real soda fountains in soon,” John told me. “They’re going to be beautiful [pointing to an image of one of them). This is the way it was done back in the day. The name ‘jerk’ came from the actions that the soda clerk would make when pulling the handles of the fountains. The soda shops were lively places. We want to bring that sort of thing back to Buffalo. We’re also going to have confections, a small retail section, and gift arrangements for birthdays and other celebrations. And then, in the fall, we will transition to gourmet hot chocolates and ciders… we want this to be a year round operation.”
Soon, John and Don will be opening a patio out on Main Street, with flower planters and bright yellow chains. They want the outside to be eye-catching, and they want to inside to be bright, fresh and clean, just like back in the days when the soda jerks would sport their white paper hats and aprons, while wiping down the counters. “Unfortunately, those darn paper hats are very uncomfortable,” John said [laughing). “We tried them on, but it didn’t take long before we gave up on them.”
Other that the silly paper hats (think Steve Martin as a gas attendant in The Jerk), the retro vibe is fully intact at Jerk’s. “We’re going to be adding a red neon sign featuring the logo in the front window,” John added. “We really want to play off of our mascot, the guy on the wall (pointing). His image inspires us. We want people to think of old fashioned goodness when they think of Jerk’s.”
Jerk’s Soda Fountain and Ice Cream | 523 Main Street | Downtown Buffalo NY | (716) 846-4891 | Facebook