By: Beth Muth
Photos: Josh Triggs
North Market Pop Shop, located at 241 North Market Street in downtown Frederick, Maryland, offers more than 400 varieties of craft soda from distributors worldwide.
Michelle Schaffer bought the business from its original owners in autumn, 2013. A biochemist by trade, work brought Michelle to Gaithersburg, Maryland, but it was Frederick that reminded her of her hometown of Portland, Oregon.
“I’d been doing science for a really long time, but I’m happier when I’m making other people happy – and you can do that with soda pop and ice cream,” explains Michelle, who was ready for entrepreneurship.
What Locals Like About the Pop Shop
Downtown Frederick is a melting pot, much like America itself. North Market Pop Shop offers a melting pot of soda choices which remind locals of other places outside the immediate geographical area.
The shop’s charming interior harkens back to a time when soda wasn’t a household staple, displaying both vintage decor gifted by customers and hand-painted details from Marty Mummert, a Gettysburg sign painter. “People want something that isn’t a large chain,” Michelle observes. “We carry sodas from places remind them of home.”
The shop features number of brands readily available for immediate purchase, from as close as the quadstate area to as far away as Australia, Europe, or Japan. You can buy single bottles or take advantage of discounted pricing for packs of four, six, twelve, or twenty-four bottles.
Another advantage of discounted packs is that you can mix and match to create any combination of brands and flavors. Premium pricing for some drinks, like Bundaberg brand root beer imported from Queensland, require an upcharge but the packages are still a great value.
A Diverse Menu to Tempt Various Tastes
North Market Pop Shop carries a food menu which includes all-beef hot dogs. Michelle remarks, “Everybody loves the chili sauce, which we ship in from Webster Springs, West Virginia; we do sloppy joes, too, with the chili sauce. All of our toppings are from McCutcheon’s [in Frederick] and we use Sriracha mayo and squeeze cheese. We’re bringing squeezy cheese back!”
Delectable treats like Pocky, a Japanese snack that consists of a thin, wafer-like pretzel stick covered in chocolate cream, and honey from hives on 5th Street in Frederick round out the options.
Ice cream flavors from traditional vanilla and strawberry to unique blends such as java cookies and peach white tea, come from Trickling Springs Creamery in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and lack added colors, artificial flavors, or preservatives. Customers who follow a vegan or gluten-free diet will be happy to know the shop carries options from Little Baby’s, a Philadelphia-based company offering handmade, small-batch, premium quality ice cream.
The menu lists both seasonal and monthly ice cream flavors. July 2016’s flavor was Buckeye Brownie, a blend of peanut butter, chocolate, and brownie chunks.
The Best Milkshakes in the Area
The milkshake machine is different than a blender, which is why it’s not easy to get a Buckeye Brownie shake.
Michelle clarifies, “The texture of the ice cream affects the texture of the milkshake. Salted caramel produces a different texture milkshake than mint chocolate chip, which is another kind of beast.”
Last summer, writers Maggie McGill and Marissa Horn of the Frederick News Post conducted a blind competition to find the best milkshake in Frederick. The 2015 article named North Market Pop Shop’s milkshakes the best in town; “insanely smooth” with a perfect thickness for slurping through the shop’s super wacky bendy straw. “The day the article came out there was a line waiting for me at the door,” Michelle reminisces. “I had to overnight a new milkshake machine and buy more ice cream.”
“We tried to have some sugar free ice cream. It’s one of those things that to get the right one, you have to try out a lot of them. We bought one and it was pretty awful, but I haven’t gone back into that realm yet,” Michelle recalls. She continues, “The vegan ice creams seem to have a lot less calories because they’re soy, rice, and coconut-based.”
Most of the sodas use natural sweeteners like cane sugar or agave, a definite plus for families looking to reduce their intake of high fructose corn syrup, but carry sugarfree flavors sweetened with Stevia or Splenda as well. One unique root beer uses honey, creating an interesting flavor you won’t find anywhere else.
More Than 6,000 Possible Float Combinations
With over 400 types of soda and more than a dozen flavors of ice cream, the float combinations at North Market Pop Shop, served either straight or blended, are practically endless. You could try something exotic like spicy ginger beer on salted caramel ice cream, or Mountain Dew over cookies and cream. Even a root beer float can be an adventure in taste as the shop carries 41 different types of root beer.
Can you imagine using bacon, pumpkin pie, sweet corn, ranch dressing, buffalo wing, or mint julep soda to create a float? What about MacFuddy Pepper Elixir, which tastes like a spicier Dr. Pepper?
Seasonal soda and ice cream flavors further increase the possibilities. Michelle divulges, “At Christmas time we have flavors like sugar cookie, gingerbread, and candy cane. Of course, we have quite a few pumpkin sodas in the fall.”
If you prefer a float from the menu, options include – but aren’t limited to – Black Forest (black cherry soda on chocolate ice cream), Peanut Butter and Jelly (grape soda on peanut butter ice cream), Butterscotch Delight (Flying Cauldron Butter Beer with salted caramel ice cream), or Three Cheers (Cheerwine with black cherry ice cream).
What Will You Try at the Pop Shop?
Customers also visit North Market Pop Shop in search of specific brands of craft soda. Leninade, for example, is a popular lemonade flavored soda capturing the spirit of Russian history. Big Red, Moxie, Dang That’s Good, Squirt, Surge, and some of the last available cases of Jolt electric blue are also popular. If your brand of choice isn’t in stock, then you might try one of the several hundred alternatives. When choosing a flavor you haven’t tried before, Michelle encourages looking past the label. “Some flavors taste great but their label might not be as exciting. Ask for recommendations. Even the newer employees are quick to figure out what their favorites are and what’s popular among customers.”
“We love to make people leave happy with a smile on their face, knowing they had a really great experience and learned something; we share pieces of information all the time,” Michelle states. She and her staff enjoy sharing their soda knowledge with customers interested in knowing more about their favorite flavors and brands. Michelle and
her staff also welcome feedback from their customers, both in person at the shop and on social media. You can connect with North Market Pop Shop on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ NorthMarketPopShop/ or on Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat using @ nmarketpopshop.
Future plans for North Market Pop Shop include expanding their selection of products and redesigning the shop’s website (http://www.northmarketpopshop.com) to include an online store. If you have a special request, contact the shop at 240-575-9070.