The self-proclaimed Oldest Independent Drug Store in Memphis proves its point with a classic lunch counter and soda fountain. While the back of the place is the domain of Charles N. Smith, pharmacist, and the left is devoted to pharmaceutical supplies (as well as a giant stuffed porcupine on a high shelf and countless amusing political cartoons), the right side Wiles-Smith is a place to eat. Here is a counter topped with yellow boomerang-pattern Formica where, if you sit on a stool, you can not only watch the fountain treats prepared, but observe nearly the entire store … in a mirror that covers the wall.
It is a pleasure to watch the soda jerk prepare a chocolate sundae. Once she gets a good amount of syrup into the tulip glass, she swirls it around so it coats the sides nearly to the top. Thus, as soon as you spoon in below the whipped cream, you’re getting syrup with your ice cream. This is good, non-premium syrup, the kind a soda fountain ought to serve: not the least bit fancy, but oh-so-satisfying with non-premium vanilla ice cream. There are richer and more sophisticated sundaes elsewhere, but this one perfectly captures the pure joy of a sundae to a twelve-year-old.
Likewise, the malt isn’t ridiculously thick the way so many modern ones are. You really can suck it up a straw, and you want to because it tastes so good. It comes in a tall silver beaker in which you’ll find at least a whole extra serving to refill your glass.
Beyond malts, sundaes, and refreshing summer-only lime and orange freezes, Wiles-Smith’s menu is basic lunch counter fare: eggs for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. We’ve never tried any of it, but the meals people near us were eating looked plenty good.
"The malts here are not too thick, easy to suck up a straw. We always appreciate a malt presentationt that includes the silver beaker in which it was made. Note the boomerang-pattern Formica on the counter."
"Union Avenue is a main Memphis thoroughfare. This old pharmacy is not too far from the original Sun Records, the studio where rockabilly music was first put on disc. "
"View from the counter: a couple of tables and some window booths. To the right of the picture are the pharmaceutical shelves."
"We like the normalcy of a Wiles-Smith sundae. This is the kind of ice cream treat a person could happily enjoy five afternoons a week."
"The view into the mirror opposite the lunch counter. You can see us sitting on our stools; and in the distant background at the far left, above the customer scratching his head, is Wiles-Smith's stuffed porcupine."