Idaho Falls, Idaho • Nearly 50 bottles of flavoring line the walls of Lael Andersen’s 10-foot-by-20-foot shack on Northgate Mile, featuring common choices such as raspberry and cherry, to more off-the-wall additives such as cupcake.
These flavors help make carbonated concoctions that in the past few years have taken eastern Idaho by storm.
“Everybody loves soda, and everyone that drinks these flavored sodas now say to me ‘I can’t drink a Dr Pepper without all of the flavoring,’” Andersen said. “Everyone wants their sugar fix.”
Andersen opened Drink N Dash last July with the intent of starting a fun new business. Alongside her 10-year-old daughter, Taybree, Andersen serves up drinks to customers as they pull up to the shack, or delivers to Idaho Falls schools and businesses.
Soda shops, also known as soda shacks, have become a mainstay in the region. In the past two years, nearly a dozen of these businesses have opened in the region, providing an alternative for those seeking a caffeine boost.
Shops range from roadside and parking lot shacks to elaborate stores, featuring flat-screen televisions and creative ambience. Some offer snacks such as cookies or popcorn, but all feature creative drink mixes and create-your-own options with a variety of flavors.
But what makes these locations so popular? Andersen believes it is a combination of the area’s culture and the simple desire of a fun, different drink on a hot summer day.
“People call it the ‘Mormon soda’ because it’s kind of the Mormon drink,” she said. “They don’t drink mixed drinks, but they can have soda with mixed stuff. So in our area, it’s really popular.”
The workload of this job has kept the mother-daughter duo on the road and behind the counter more often each month since they opened the location.
“This is just a lot of fun,” she said. “And the best part about it is the people I get to go to every day and my regulars. They really do become my friends.”
Other soda shop businesses in the area have seen opportunities to expand with the rising popularity of these drinks. Rigby-based The Fizz Bizz opened a second location in Idaho Falls in October. And manager Kori Madsen said the business expansion, so far, has been a success.
“Not only is it a fun environment and a fun treat, but it’s a fun place to be,” she said. “The employees we have working here are guaranteed to put a smile on your face, and I think a lot of people come to our soda shop because they know they’ll be treated well and leave with a smile.”
Madsen previously worked at the Rigby location but has enjoyed her experience in Idaho Falls.
“We’re pretty new to this side of town, but over time we’ve seen the growth and people are catching on,” she said. “It’s been cool to see the company grow and to see that we can make people as happy as it can.”
Ammon residents Rob and Shana Erikson frequently visit area soda shops with their family. And on a recent trip to The Fizz Bizz, the family sat down to enjoy a variety of drinks.
“It’s just a fun place,” Shana Erikson said. “It’s kind of like when frozen yogurt came in. It’s a nice place to just sit and talk.”
Idaho Falls resident John Burleson also frequents these locations and calls Andersen throughout the week to make sure she is not out on delivery before heading over to Drink N Dash on his lunch break.
“Drink N Dash here is awesome,” he said. “Their delivery system is excellent. She’s going above and beyond what a normal facility should do.
“Basically, every time I call, she already knows my order. I’m her No. 1 customer.”
Burleson’s go-to drink is the No. 9 at Drink N Dash, which features Dr Pepper with splashes of cupcake, strawberry, vanilla and cream flavoring. Andersen said this is the most popular drink on the menu.
“We have a good, loyal fan base,” she said. “We can make you whatever you want, basically.”
While soda shops often feature a variety of drink options, with creative names such as the Ace in the Hole or Cherry Bomb.com, one of the most attractive facets of these businesses is the ability of customers to experiment and find their own flavors.
“You can go from any of the 50 options we have, or you can put any one of the ones we have and mix it,” Connor Henderson, barista at The Drink Factory, said. “We have thousands of combinations you can try.”
Once some find that perfect combination, it’s hard to change.
“I’ve kind of found what I like, and it’s tough to deviate and get adventurous sometimes,” Rob Erikson said.
His go-to choice is a Mountain Dew with strawberry and mango puree flavoring.
The options are endless, and Andersen believes the popularity of these businesses will continue into the future.
“I think the popularity comes from, they can take anything they want and mix with it,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be anything on my menu. If you pull up and like Sprite with watermelon, you can do your thing.
“It’s their own way to make it, and that’s why people like it.”