The Weird Soda Review lab staff is spending Easter weekend in Los Angeles. After some consultation, if was determined that one important use of our time would be to send me on a pilgrimage to Galco's Soda Pop Stop, located in Highland Park. There's a link to their store over on the side, under Weird Soda Sources.
"What's so special about this place," you might ask, "that it should deserve a special visit? And why would you call it a pilgrimage?"
Galco's started out as a local Italian grocery store. I don't know the full history, but at some point they shifted focus to being a retail outlet for what seems like every Weird Soda you've ever heard of, and many you haven't. There's still a counter in the back were they make what are reputed to be pretty good Italian sandwiches.
I never got that far.
Galco's has legendary status in the Weird Soda community, so I felt it part of my research duties to visit this place, this soda shrine, this crown jewel of carbonation. A short journey east on the 10 freeway, then north on the 110...
then...er...this doesn't look right...
Back to the 110. Exit on York--wait, what turn is that?
Who names a street "Avenue 64"?
And after bit of fumbling, there it was. Galco's Grocery.
Reverently, I parked my vehicle and made my way to the charming wooden doors.
Behold the glory. Pallets and boxes of Weird Soda. Coolers spilling over with it. Aisles of wine (which is nice too, but not my goal). TWO FULL AISLES of NOTHING but Weird Soda.
And some of this stuff is pretty darned Weird.
I had a nice conversation with the manager (who I did not kneel before, although it was tempting) about the store and his wares. He expressed a vehement dislike of Coke and Pepsi, followed by the appearance of a beatific smile and warm glow in his eyes when he discussed the store's policy of encouraging small bottling operations. He told a lovely story about how they arranged for a limited bottling run of a root beer which resulted from a father-child effort to make root beer as part of a science fair project explaining carbonation.
Other people in the store evinced similar auras of radiant contentment. One gentleman engaged me in conversation about my shirt, which transmogrified into a discussion of science teaching techniques and a shared appreciation for soda. Another woman was pushing a cart with (presumably her) chidren, enthusuatically selecting Weird Sodas with small exclamations of joy and running commentary to the children about the presumed virtues of each. The manager was spotted explaining the detailed history of a soda I had never seen before and the tangled relationship between the bottler of that beverage and the formula for Coke. It was like wandering through a wonderful library, where everyone there is there because they love to read, and there is no competition--only the shared love of the medium. It was reminiscent of some of the groups I have seen at national science conventions, where everyone is absorbed in the joy of the discussion and the ideas. It was something like being in line for a Star Wars movie, dressed as Darth Liberace, and that's not considered out of place because everyone else is just as happy as you are to be there, and showing that enthusiasm is just what you do.
In short, it was a collection of Soda Geeks. And I use the word Geek as a badge of honor, simply indicating a person who is interested in and knowledgeable about something, and joyful in that interest and knowledge.
I emerged from Galco's with two full boxes of treasure. Almost every bottle and can was a Weird Soda I had never seen before. If you're looking for Weird Soda, this would be a fine place to go. And if you're not in LA, they do ship nationwide--check them out. They're good people.
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