Built In 1914, Wyoming’s Oldest Operating Soda Fountain In Chugwater Is For Sale

The Chugwater Soda Fountain — Wyoming’s oldest continuously operating soda fountain built in 1914 — went up for sale on Thursday for $445,000.

RJ
Renée Jean

January 26, 20246 min read

Chugwater Soda Fountain 1 25 24

News travels fast in a small town like Chugwater, sometimes nearly as fast as the speed of sound or even light.

That certainly seemed the case when Jill Winger listed the Chugwater Soda Fountain — Wyoming’s oldest continuously operating soda fountain, built in 1914 — for sale on the soda fountain’s web page Thursday morning. It's being listed for $445,000.

“I know these things do take time,” Winger told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday afternoon. “But I’ve had a couple people go, ‘Oh no, what if it closes,’ and I’m like, ‘We’re not going to close it.’ We’ll keep on keeping on. We’re not just going to shutter it. It could take a while to find the right person, and I’m OK with that. It’s business as usual for right now.”

In fact, Winger’s sale page clearly shows she’s looking for not just any buyer, but the one and only right buyer.

“I really want it to be an owner-operator, not an absentee owner,” Winger said. “I think that is really important. I want them to, you know, be loving small-town America as much as I do.”

To that end, Winger said she’s willing to consider prospective owners even if they don’t have prior restaurant experience, and she’s offering to help them through a 90-day transition period, if need be.

“We’re not going to force ourselves on them, but it’s just to help them see how we run it and give them help with knowing the processes so they can feel confident moving forward,” she said. “That’s kind of our goal to make sure the adoption happens smoothly.”

A Bittersweet Moment

Part of Winger isn’t yet ready to let go of the Chugwater Soda Fountain, she said.

Winger and her husband Chris bought it in 2021 after driving by it for a dozen or so years.

“I love old things,” Winger said. “And I love old things with potential. And I could just see this had so much potential in it. It’s one of two restaurants in town, and it’s right off I-25, so you have that traffic potential there, too.”

At first, Winger told herself she was too busy to be buying an old restaurant like that. It would need a lot of restoration work to reach the potential Winger envisioned, and she was already a popular social media blogger with more than 600,000 Facebook and 173,000 Instagram followers and a popular cookbook to her name.

But the vision of what the Chugwater Soda Fountain could be wouldn’t leave her alone.

“It just kind of captured my imagination,” Winger has told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s one of the oldest buildings in Chugwater, and it has all this history.”

Despite having no restaurant experience herself, Winger eventually reached out to the owners to see what they might want for it. Turned out, they were getting ready to retire and were more than happy to sell her the business.

Winger might not have any experience in the restaurant business, but she did have experience restoring the couple’s 67-acre farmstead.

Like that project, the Soda Fountain proved to have several hidden issues, in addition to all the more visible problems, which made the project take longer than she’d hoped.

All of it has been worth it though, Winger said, and she’s confident new owners will find it’s well-positioned for the future.

The Soda Fountain is not only advantageously positioned on I-25, it’s been part of a revival of the town, with several new residents moving in to refurbish old buildings for new businesses.

“It’s pretty bittersweet for us to sell,” she said. “And I’ve said this to a couple of people. Like if I didn’t have three or four other businesses, I would keep it, because I feel like there’s so much potential with I-25.”

Winger said the Soda Fountain already has a solid clientele and is turning a profit. Meanwhile, she’s mapped out a gameplan for increasing the Soda Fountain’s revenue and its traffic — ideas she is happy to share with the new owner.

“We’ve seen an increase in revenue since we purchased it three years ago,” she said. “And it has a lot of notoriety and word-of-mouth advertising. So, I feel like it’s only up from here.”

Soda Fountain 2 1 25 24

We Need Time To Breathe

The other businesses the Wingers operate are among the reasons the couple is looking to sell the Soda Fountain, Winger told Cowboy State Daily.

“Chris and I are just feeling like, ‘Hey, I think we need to breathe a bit,’” she said. “We need to regroup.”

Winger is fresh off publishing her second book, “Old Fashioned On Purpose,” which was released by Harper Collins. Her first book, “The Prairie Homestead Cookbook,” a compilation of simple recipes and homesteading wisdom, is already a bestseller.

In addition to that, the Wingers have been very involved in helping set up a charter school in Chugwater, which Winger said has been taking up a lot of their free time.

“That’s been taking the lion’s share of our focus,” Winger said. “Making sure that’s where it needs to be.”

The charter school is now Chugwater’s only option, since Platte County closed the public school system there.

Also, Winger’s children are getting older and more involved in school activities, which is another factor in the decision to seek a buyer for the Soda Fountain.

“You know they say toddlerhood is the trenches, but I really think it’s this older, elementary, junior high,” she said. “There’s just a lot going on. So, we want to be present for them during this little brief window of time that we have them doing sports and activities. So, I think we’re gonna just kind of get back to basics with my online business, the blog, and the podcast and things.”

That will help the couple feel a little less thinly spread.

“We have said yes to a lot of different things, which were wonderful and good, and I don’t regret it,” Winger said. “But so, this is a positive thing. It’s not a sort of you know dumping. We’re going to make sure the transition happens smoothly, and I feel very optimistic about it. It will be good to have another business owner come in.”

Soda Fountain 1 1 25 24
Share this article

Authors

RJ

Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter