Take the kids to an all-soda and candy shop? Sounds like either the greatest idea in the world, or a recipe for sugar-fueled disaster. Just about any remotely health-conscious parent initially has the latter reaction when told about a store that specializes in all things ridiculously, crazily, over-the-top sweet. But Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to ease up on our restrictions and take a walk an the bubbly sweet wild side.  With hard to find historical treats (teaches kids history) and the new mix your own flavor station (teaches kids chemistry and gastronomy), you can find plenty of excuses to indulge in a Pop Stop.

Galcos

Getting Fizzy with It
Galco’s Soda Pop Stop in Highland Park, however, isn’t just a soda and treats store. It’s a decades-old beloved neighborhood and  Los Angeles institution, really, where even non-soda drinkers somehow wind up spending considerable amounts of cash and strain their backs hauling cases of sweet bubbly drinks to the car after perusing the many hundreds of labels to chose from.

GalcoscandyThe store was originally founded around the turn of the last century and later operated by the Nese family for decades as a local market. John Nese eventually turned his family’s business into a venue to showcase his passion for small batch and specialized sodas. Galco’s also has a deli counter, as well as a selection of old time candy that both hits the sweet spot of nostalgia seekers and intrigues younger generations with the high novelty factor.

You’re not going to find many (OK, most) of these products on the shelf of your typical grocery or convenience store. The shelves at Galco’s are a fascinating lesson in international and sub-regional tastes. Even retail operations that traffic in the obscure probably don’t have Mr. Q’s cucumber soda or dozens of cane sugar-based (Mr. Nese proudly states his avoidance of stocking products with high-fructose corn syrup) cream sodas. Do not expect to find Coke or Pepsi here.

Galcossodasta

Pump It Up
Now Galco’s puts beverage enthusiasts in the driver’s seat with the new Soda Creation Station. Here’s where kids can really go to town and play mad food scientist. Grab an empty bottle, fill it partially with carbonated water (with options for different levels of intensity), pick a syrup — or two or three or six, depending on how wild and creative you want to get — attach the cap, and proudly label your custom mix. (Each bottle costs $2.99.)

GalcosNeseSour apple cotton candy? Lemon licorice? Why not experiment a bit? Syrups are made by Monin, which you might have noticed at your local coffee bar that slings hazelnut lattes and drinks that require a squirt of synthetic flavor. Frankly, it’s a bit of a shock to see 8-9 pumps fill the bottle, but you can nudge the kids to up the fizzy water-to-syrup ratio and still have it taste sweet enough. Its also a cool alternative to other Valentine’s Day treats this month, and in the future makes awesome birthday party drinks/favors that your little budding mixologist helped create.

What to do with that Bottled Up Energy…
You might be in desperate need of an activity to burn off the sugar buzz, so consider a visit to the Los Angeles Police Museum, which is located just down the street.

Galco’s Soda Pop Stop
5702 York Blvd., Highland Park
Phone: (323) 255-7115
Online: galcos.com
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

-Jessica Ritz

Photo credits: Jessica Ritz