Mark Lazarchic is a serial entrepreneur. He owns Renaissance Fireworks, the pop-up tents of which manifest themselves in every other parking lot throughout the Twin Cities by about late June. He makes his biggest killing in wedding sparklers, as his company Wedding Day Sparklers is the country’s greatest provider of them. His Blue Sun Soda Shop in Spring Lake Park is decidedly not one of his more lucrative endeavors. “It doesn’t make any money because I keep investing in new $#!&,” explained Mark. “But if you’re doing something just for the money…well, then you should just get a job.”
Blue Sun takes up the near entirety of a stip mall, which Mark owns as well. He had to let all of its former renters loose to make room for the hundreds upon hundreds of different sodas that line his store’s shelves. You will not find common sodas there. You will find Judge Wapner root beer, Deadworld zombie soda, and Kiss Kola. There is pumpkin pie soda, churro soda, chocolate covered bacon soda, beef jerky soda, sweet corn soda, ranch dressing soda, and maple seltzer. There are Japanese sodas in odd little bottles decorated with minimalistic kittens and androgynous video game protagonists. There is Sopranos chianti flavored soda, the perfect drink with which to wash the taste of cigars and gabagool out of your mouth. There is even dirt soda, which is “shoveled and bottled in the USA.”
Somehow Gross Gus’s Bloody Nose soda didn’t command my curiosity, but Mark’s own line of Whistler Classic Soda very much did. Whistler’s flavors include all the old standbys as well as unexpected ones like caramel apple, huckleberry, butterscotch root beer, and blood orange ginger. I put a bottle of caramelized pineapple in the chilling machine by the register so it would be ready for my drive home.
Mark took me to his 1952 Crown Cork & Seal Dixie Model F, a seafoam green mammoth surrounded by obelisks of palletized glass. In a din of whirs and clinks the machine is able to produce bottle after bottle of Whistler or North Star Classic soda, but it is a temperamental thing that can go all of 17 minutes before settling on a reason to cease working. “It breaks all the damn time,” as Mark more succinctly put it, “but it’s fun as hell to see it go. I love coming back here and watching it run. Modern machines are boring and sterile, but this one looks like it was made by Willie Wonka.”
The Dixie is just across the room from some of its brothers in obsoletion, a collection of vintage pinball machines. The arcade games date themselves with the things they are themed after — it is doubtful that today’s video game developers clamor to cash in on intellectual properties like Demolition Man and Johnny Mnemonic. A Twilight Zone pinball machine fits right in there, although I hesitated to play it lest I should wind up in some macabre scenario narrated by Rod Sterling. Mark turned my attention toward the Kiss pinball machine, complete with Gene Simmons’ tongue wagging at me. “Do you know why I love Kiss?” he asked. “It’s because they’ll slap their name on anything. There’s even a Kiss coffin.”
I had to plunk a quarter into High-Speed, where a sports car is perpetually outrunning some perturbed cops as its driver’s date looks frenziedly back at them. I remembered this machine as one of the only arcade games in the county where I grew up, and as I smashed its buttons I could smell the basement of the Mexican restaurant I had last played it in. Every game of pinball costs only a quarter at Blue Sun — Mark’s pinball guy is allowed to keep his machines there so long as he honors that price arrangement and also keeps Mark’s own machines in working order.
A few quarters and several pinball deaths later, and my caramelized pineapple soda was now chilled to perfection. It was delicious, which along with the 50 cents I’ll get for returning the bottle more than warrants my upcoming return to Blue Sun. If your dentist says it’s okay, you ought to go soon as well. Visit bluesunsodashop.com to find out more.
By David Scheller