While chicken soup might be good for the soul, a banana split, hot-fudge sundae, root beer float or even an ice cream cone might be good for what ails you. Or at the very least, a good way to pass time while waiting for your prescription to be filled at Nye’s Pharmacy in Conway or Lee’s Inlet Apothecary in Murrells Inlet.
At both places, you can sit a spell over lunch or breakfast. It’s the way things used to be at independent drug stores long before the national chains spread to the local communities.
Sue Norton presides over the 1950s-era counter at Nye’s, just as she has done since 1984. She’s on her third set of owners, but uses the same recipes that have been offered at the lunch counter for decades.
She closely guards the “secret ingredients” for the fountain’s signature turkey salad, made fresh daily and available as part of a cold plate or as a sandwich. She starts her day – usually by 7:30 a.m., even before the store’s 8 a.m. opening – by boiling turkeys that will go into the salad.
Norton, a dark-haired woman who smiles easily, knows many of her customers by name. She should. She’s been working at Nye’s since 1979, while she was still in high school and has been at the store longer than its current owners, Matt and Tiffany Combs.
“The town where I grew up had a pharmacy with a lunch counter/soda fountain,” said Matt Combs, a pharmacist. “I wouldn’t change this at all.”
Willy and Melissa Lee, the owners of Lee’s Inlet Apothecary and Gifts found their 1930s-era soda fountain in the Great Plains and had it delivered to Murrells Inlet. The soda fountain has syrup Coke, old-fashioned blenders for milkshakes and the stylized ice cream glasses. Because of the limited space, the food choices are limited – hot dogs, grilled cheese and pimento cheese come hot, thanks to a Panini maker and the hot dog broiler, but all types of ice cream and fountain treats, including phosphates, attract a steady stream of diners.
“We make our salads – chicken and egg salads, with love and Duke’s mayonnaise,” said Aubrey Taylor, who presides over the fountain on Wednesdays and Thursdays. She shares her job with her neighbor, Leslie Hatton.
“I couldn’t ask for a better job,” she said as she chops celery and eggs for the chicken salad, which is made fresh daily.
Norton is equally proud of the fountain at Nye’s, and she’s made the small kitchen area her own. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and a breakfast menu including grits, eggs and pancakes are standards.
Mondays through Thursdays Norton prepares lunch specials, that may include chicken bog, hamburger steak, ham and rice, grilled shrimp, chicken tenders, and red rice and sausage, depending on what she wants to cook. But it’s all fresh.
At Lee’s, the chicken salad is made fresh daily, and it’s been a staple for a decade or more. The hot dogs are a relatively new addition, but a popular one.
“These are the best hot dogs,” exclaimed Ted Bowden as he sat down with a friend at one of the round ice cream tables. Bowden is a regular – hot dogs, potato chips and iced tea – and as soon as he walks in the door Taylor puts the dogs on the grill.
She jokes with Bowden about his order and then prepares a phosphate for another customer. It’s all in a day’s work.
Her workday starts about 9:30 or 10 a.m. and she’s out the door by 3, in plenty of time to pick up her children at Belin Memorial United Methodist Church’s preschool.