Step back in time: Paris Soda Shop opens April 4
Published 10:23 am Thursday, April 3, 2014
NILES—Elaine Tughan was a sales rep selling designer fabrics on the road when she first found the Paris Soda Shop, and she was immediately taken with its quaint location at 220 E. Main St. in Niles. Unhappy with a post-9/11 downturn in sales, she was looking for something new.
What she found was something old.
“I found this building in ‘03,” Tughan recalled. “My intent was to open up a coffee shop. And then, I heard the history of the old Paris, and I kept on hearing stories:‘My first kiss was at the Paris.’ ‘I used to hold hands in the booths at the Paris.’ ‘We hung out there after school every day.’”
In fact, the Paris has had a long history in Niles, dating back to 1910 when James Patterson opened the first Paris Candy Shop on E. Main. According to the Fort St. Joseph Museum, Patterson — also a newcomer to town — added a soda bar a few years later. Some time after opening a second shop at 220 E. Main in the 1930s, the Patterson family relocated the fountain along with elaborate furnishings to the second shop.
Although the soda shop’s furnishings had been purchased and relocated by an Arkansas firm many years before Elaine came along, she loved the idea of restoring a Niles landmark.
“I thought, ‘Every small town needs an old-fashioned soda bar,’” Tughan said. “And that very night, believe it or not, I went on eBay and found this whole thing. This whole soda bar. It’s an actual 1940s soda bar, and I had to go to Waterbury Conn. and pull it back. So, it was meant to be.”
The next four years saw an extensive renovation of the shop’s interior, with Tughan tearing off layers of plaster to expose the old brick walls. She was finally ready to open the soda shop and restaurant in 2007. Since then, Tughan has developed quite a fan base as well as a nickname: “The Quiche Queen of Niles.”
“I’m known for several different things—my quiche, my chicken salad. Of course we do ice cream—malts, shakes, sundaes. Everything is hand-dipped,” Tughan said. “And people love the fact that we can make phosphates, back like they did in the ‘40s out of our goose-neck fountain.”
In keeping with the nostalgic atmosphere, the Paris serves up its sandwiches in old-fashioned lunchboxes.
“And, when you get a gift certificate, it comes in a little, mini lunchbox,” Tughan added. “The lunchboxes are also available for purchase at a very reasonable price of $8.”
Nostalgic candies, including wax lips, candy dots and large lollipops are also for sale.
Although the emphasis in the Paris is definitely on a sweet, nostalgic view of the past, Tughan has also made some changes for the 2014 season, including new additions to the menu.
“I’ve added 15 new items to the menu, and I’ve lowered my prices,” Tughan said. “I just expanded more of my menu, based on items we already had in-house. I’ve expanded my wraps, and I’m doing several different types of burgers now.”
Regulars to the Paris will not be disappointed because Tughan has kept all of the old favorites on the menu alongside her new offerings. Those include the authentic Coney dogs, the Paris Club and her famous chicken salad.
Another new event that occurred in 2014 was that Tughan decided to close down the shop for two months this winter in order to spend time with her aging parents. Now, however, with the arrival of spring, Tughan is back in Niles, readying the Paris for an opening day of April 4.
Although Tughan hasn’t completely settled on business hours for the coming season, she is certain that she’ll have the shop open at 11 a.m. on most days, and it should be open every day of the week. Updates can be found at www.facebook.com/TheParisNiles on Facebook, and more information can be obtained by calling (269) 687-5975 as well.