By Connie Nimmo Thorn
Columbus, Indiana, is home to many small, local businesses. The eclectic boutiques and distinctive eateries give downtown an artistic flair. But, there’s one business that has given Columbus flavor for over 100 years.
In 1900, the Zaharako brothers opened a candy store in Columbus. A few years later, they decided to serve fountain soda and ice cream, too. The shop served sweet treats for almost a century before closing in the 2000s. Thankfully, that was not the end of Zaharakos. A local entrepreneur helped renovate and restore Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor & Museum to its heyday.
A trip to Columbus isn’t complete without a Zaharakos’ scoop of ice cream or the ever-popular lime-flavored ice cream soda, Green River. But, that is not what makes this place truly unique. Every nook and cranny holds an intriguing detail.
The doors to Zaharakos serve as the gateway to this nostalgic locale. The old-fashioned entry glistens with elegant stained glass. From the antique maple floors and the intricately designed ceiling to the mirrored walls, carved mahogany and brass details, nostalgia catches the eye. Diners can take a seat in the lively dining room, past the ornate wooden arches, and listen the grand 1908 self-playing Welte Orchestrion in action. It’s sort of like a life-sized music box that sounds like an entire orchestra is playing in the parlor. Or, they can grab a seat at the marble fountain counter. From there, the authentic vintage details are impossible to miss.
A marble lamp flaunts rose, green and gold colors from the Tiffany-style stained-glass shade atop the counter. Beyond the counter, two Mexican onyx soda fountains are still in use today. Those with a good eye will notice some quirky flavors on the syrup dispensers. The backbar also holds many interesting details, such as lit mirrors, stained glass and the iconic Zaharakos logo.
Visitors are encouraged to get an up-close look at candy shop, soda fountain and mechanical music history in the ice cream parlor’s museum. Some of the most memorable finds are the penny candy display, authentic syrup dispensers, a vintage cash register and an 1870s orchestrion. A small shop in the museum carries old-fashioned candy, syrups and classic toys.
Locals aren’t the only people who find Zaharakos incredible. Most recently, it was included in National Geographic Traveler’s 50 Dream Drives. To capture the grandeur of the historic marvel in words is nearly impossible, so you’ll just have to taste it for yourself. Use #VisitColumbusIN to share your favorite details of Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor & Museum.
Top photo by Lee Lewellen