I recently went to Zaharakos to enjoy the holiday merriment and a scoop of delightful peppermint ice cream. This was the first time I had been in the ice cream parlor since they added their 2013 holiday decorations and I was overjoyed by the winter wonderland before me. The holiday spirit has most certainly taken over the shop.

Growing up in Columbus, Zaharakos was practically part of our family. If we were ever downtown for any reason, The Commons playground and Zaharakos were at the top of our to-do list.

Christmas at Zaharakos, by Don Nissen
Even today, I have to admit that every time I walk through the doors of Zaharakos, I feel like a 5-year-old girl gleefully waiting for her favorite treat in the world. I even get the urge to sit at the too-tiny-for-adults table.

Elaborate Christmas decorations have always been a part of Zaharakos’ history, and I’m glad to say that the new ownership has kept that tradition alive.

The shop is decorated from floor to ceiling. I counted three gorgeously decorated Christmas trees, though I’m sure I could have missed one. Each of the ornate soda fountains throughout the shop features elaborate holiday displays including ornaments, evergreens, garland, ornaments and cheerful holiday figurines.

Christmas at Zaharakos, by Don Nissen
I think the only place devoid of decorations are the walking paths, the chairs and just enough room on each table for people to place their dishes.

Every other square foot of the building is beaming with jingle bells, candy canes, snowmen, tinsel, whimsy and wonder. While most of the decorations are new, I did notice two items that were on display that I remember from my childhood (I was born in 1982, so these figures have to be more than 30 years old).

As they have every year that I can remember, a plastic snowman and plastic Santa Claus greet children as they approach the table and chairs built just big enough for toddlers. I can remember talking to those figures when I was a kid, probably telling Santa which My Little Pony I wanted for Christmas and asking the snowman if he knew Frosty.

Christmas at Zaharakos, by Don Nissen
During my visit last week, I was lucky enough to have stopped by at the same time as an a cappella group. The Three Handsome Gentlemen Men’s Quartet a cappella group had stopped by for a treat after a holiday performance in Columbus and delighted customers with an impromptu performance of “Jingle Bells.” Watch the video on YouTube.

I can’t begin to express my gratitude to all of those who played a part in bringing back Zaharakos. It is without question one of Columbus’ most cherished treasures.

Christmas at Zaharakos, by Don Nissen
I love taking my nephews to the parlor and telling them about my first memories at Zaharakos and giving them a taste of my favorites: Cinnamon and chocolate sodas and the Gom Cheeseburger. My favorite holiday treat, however, is the peppermint ice cream which is made fresh on site.

I don’t know if it is the centuries-old soda fountain or the long-forgotten customs kept alive, but Zaharakos has a way of taking you back. On almost every visit, after all but the stubborn fudge stuck to my ice cream dish has been eaten, my family sits around reminiscing about how Columbus and our family has changed and how nice it is that some things will never change.

By Paige Harden

More About Zaharakos

Opened in 1900 by three Greek brothers with the last name “Zaharako.” The store closed in 2004, but was restored and reopened in June 2009. Its mahogany bar, with two marble and chrome soda fountains, dates back to the early 1900s. There is a Tiffany-style lamp on the bar and a Welte Orchestrion pipe organ.

According to Indianapolis Monthly Magazine, Zaharakos is No. 1 on the list of 50 things every Hoosier must do.

See the Zararakos page, learn much more about the famous old-fashioned ice cream parlor.