Known as a beacon for those craving a reasonably priced, but hearty, cone of delicious, homemade ice cream, Bauder’s Pharmacy has been churning out homemade ice cream since the early 1900s.
The story begins in 1916 with a woman named Carolyn Bauder, Iowa’s first registered female pharmacist. The original Bauder’s was located at 18th and Crocker Streets, where pharmacists filled both prescriptions and ice cream bowls. In 1925, it relocated to its current location on Ingersoll Avenue. In the late ’40s, Bauder took in partner Charles Graziano, who would later go on to purchase the other half of the business in 1963. Graziano, his wife and their six children — all Drake grads — worked at Bauder’s at one time or another. Currently, the shop is operated by Charles Graziano’s son Mark Graziano and his daughter Kim Robertson.
Sophomore biochemistry and molecular biology major Mallory Bonstrom went to Bauder’s last month to enjoy a chocolate malt.
“I thought Bauder’s was adorable,” Bonstrom said. “I like going places that have character and have a history.”
Bauder’s is well known for its signature “peppermint bar,” which sells exclusively at the Iowa State Fair. Bauder’s achievement is taking the common ice cream sandwich and elevating it to the pinnacle of its form. The ice cream sandwich consists of Oreo cookie crust and a thick layer of homemade peppermint ice cream, and it is topped with hot fudge.
“(The Iowa State Fair) is 11 days of the most intense, laborious and sticky work you can imagine,” Robertson said. “But we sell so many. People come from all over for our bars.”
The middle-of-the-block shop hasn’t changed much since its inception. The entire store is done in ’50s style wood paneling with several vintage neon “Have a Coke” signs and a long marble counter. At first glance, the only thing that appears to be new is the blue upholstery — “bulldog blue” as Robertson calls it — on the swiveling bar stools.
Bauder’s still uses its old-school soda fountain, the same one it’s been using since the beginning. Housed in a Coke machine, it concocts all malts and fizzy drinks — from Green Rivers to Cherry Cokes — all of which are served in old-fashioned soda glasses.
Bauder’s prides itself on doling out dishes of the freshest ice cream with its “seasonal only” batches. Gallons of fresh peach ice cream stock the coolers in July. Other flavors include strawberry in late May and cranberry around Thanksgiving.
“We really try to get the freshest, ripest fruit we can when (we) make it,” Robertson said.
Apart from the classic ice cream flavors of vanilla, chocolate and various fruits, it also serves more unique concoctions like crunchy butter brickle, maple walnut, cinnamon apple, winter wondermint and Buddha’s Best, named for Iowa lobbyist Richard Thornton.
“Richard was a bit on the rotund side in college,” Bauder’s employee Jolene Cavanaugh said. “Buddha was his fraternity nickname.”
Robertson said Thornton would come into Bauder’s and complain about there not being any chocolate ice cream with nuts in it. Robertson created a new flavor just for Thornton, using chocolate ice cream, chocolate chips and pecans. Thornton deemed those to be the best toppings for ice cream, hence the name.
Aside from ice cream, Bauder’s also serves sandwiches, pizzas, salads and hot dogs.
Despite its small size, Bauder’s has received some big recognition for its signature sweets and delectable dishes, most notably in Gourmet Magazine, which has featured it multiple times. Its egg salad sandwich is headlined in an article, but the signature peppermint bar was also showcased on two occasions. Its homemade ice cream made an appearance in three issues. People Magazine named its fresh strawberry ice cream as one of the best in the country in 1984. Bauder’s has even graced the pages of Bon Appetit and The New York Times.