Jay: Ben’s Town Antiques offers a step back in time

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In Louisiana, if you walk through enough doors, you’re bound to find something really unique and interesting.

That was definitely the case when a friend and I wandered into Ben’s Town Antiques in Benton on a recent Saturday afternoon. This impressive antique mall is located in a storefront that formerly housed Parker’s Drug Store, a soda fountain and pharmacy built in the 1920s.

While the antique mall element of the store is definitely impressive (prices are great and the selection is eclectic and cool), the element of Ben’s Town that threw me for a loop was the fully functional 1930s soda fountain, originally the main attraction at Parker’s Drug Store. The fountain has been restored to working order and is once again serving sodas.

Lawrence Pilkinton, owner of Ben’s Town, is happy to make customers a delicious orange cream soda, Coca-Cola or root beer. Sodas are $1.50, but the experience of having a soda prepared by a “soda jerk” from an old school fountain was – for me, at least – kind of priceless. Pilkinton is understandably proud of the fountain, which he visited often as a child.

“It took me almost two years to get it working,” he said. “I’d drink sodas and eat ice cream at this counter almost every day when I was a kid.”

He features additional flavors from time to time. The orange cream that he made for me was, honestly, the best soda I’ve ever tasted. If you live in the Shreveport-Bossier area or you’re just passing through, it’s worth a quick detour to Ben’s Town to experience the simple pleasure of an old-fashioned soda fountain.

Ben’s Town Antiques is open, Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information, “Like” the store on Facebook or call (318) 965-0049.

Chris Jay is a lifelong resident of northwest Louisiana, having lived in Springhill, Natchitoches and Shreveport-Bossier. An ‘02 graduate of Centenary College, he blogs about Shreveport-Bossier’s culinary scene and also makes weekly posts about upcoming events. When he’s not working, he’s likely walking his Bassett Hound, Bowser, or catching a movie or a rock show downtown. Chris can be reached at cjay@sbctb.org.