Last soda fountain in Corpus Christi celebrating 58 years

Posted at 7:39 AM, Jul 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-27 15:37:10-04

It’s known as a local hot spot in Corpus Christi. What was formerly known as Hamlin Pharmacy and Fountain has now become Hamlin Fountain, Gifts and Bakery.

Courtesy of Hamlin Fountain & Gifts + Bakery Facebook Page

In 1958, pharmacist Karl Arnold and his wife,  Joanne, opened up Hamlin Pharmacy and Fountain. It was near the intersection of Weber and Staples. “Weber had ditches on either side of it, it was just a two-lane street,” says Karen Nicholson, Karl’s daughter.

Nicholson spoke with KRIS 6 about Hamlin’s history. She said her father was such a hard worker that his children only saw him if they went to the fountain for dinner. Nicholson remembers standing on a box behind the register, and that’s how customer’s would be rung up.

Hamlin has become the last soda fountain in Corpus Christi.

“It’s kind of amazing because it used to be there was a drug store with a soda fountain on almost every corner, and there was a lot of them.” Nicholson said. “And we were one big family, as well. It’s kind of just dwindled down now, where it’s just us which is just … really is amazing.”

Some things at Hamlin has changed over the years, such as an expansion for their gift shop, a bakery that took place of the pharmacy, and prices. In one local ad from the past, a chocolate sundae cost only 19 cents.

But constants over the years have been the atmosphere and the food.

“Everything is the same because the cook is the same,” says Nicholson.

The one face many locals remember most is Jesse Lerma, who has worked at Hamlin since day one.

Courtesy of Hamlin Fountain & Gifts + Bakery Facebook Page

At the age of 16 or 17, Lerma says he was working at another job when he started at Hamlin. But life changes and he’s been at the soda fountain ever since.

He works six days and week and you can find him making the best old-fashioned burgers in town. Lerma is known for his famous chili that’s been cooking for decades. All he asks, is that you come in, try it out, and let him know how it is.

Nicholson says Hamlin stopped refilling prescriptions in December 2016. Since then, they changed the pharmacy into the new bakery.

Most of the original architecture remains. Nicholson’s daughter, Katie, runs the bakery. Among its offerings are different kinds of desserts to fit anyone’s needs.

Among the offerings are gluten-free, vegan and paleo pastries, “we offer you your hamburger and your milkshake but I know a lot people have different dietary needs. And so we wanted to be able to offer something for everyone,” Nicholson says.

When asked what’s next for Hamlin and its future, Nicholson points to her daughter Katie.

“It’s in this generation,” Nicholson said.

Hamlin isn’t slowing down. And as Corpus Christi’s last soda fountain, they hope locals keep coming back for more.