New Soda Shop a Yummy Stroll Down Memory Lane

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

July 7, 2020

Marisa and Ryan Bello recently opened the Bumble B Soda Co., located at 859 Main St., in Downtown Morro Bay.

People can exercise their sweet tooth at a new, old-fashioned soda fountain in Downtown Morro Bay, indulging in a delicious stroll down memory lane.

The Bumble B Soda Co., located at 859 Main St., next door to Top Dog Coffee Co., is the new venture for shop owners, Ryan and Marisa Bello, a married couple and SLO County natives.

“Ryan and I have known each other since junior high, and high school,” says Marisa sitting in their new shop, which is a bit of a work in progress. She grew up in Avila and he in Morro Bay, and both graduated from San Luis Obispo High.

Why open an ice cream shop? Marisa says they were offered the building a long time ago and had a decision to make. “We looked at each other and asked, ‘What do you want to do?’”

The pair remembered bygone days when local pharmacies had soda fountains and lunch counters, and thought they could bring back those happy memories, but with a modern twist.

They wanted to create a place where people could gather, Marisa says, a place where they could come in and enjoy a delicious treat that “brings the community together.” They wanted to open a place for people of all ages, where they could come and “B” happy, she explains, air quoting the “B” that is part of the shop’s and their name.

If the Bello name sounds familiar to longtime SLO County residents, that’s probably because Ryan’s uncle owned and operated Bello’s Sporting Goods store in Downtown SLO for decades.

As a kid in Morro Bay, Ryan says he remembers Baker’s Ice Cream Parlor, which used to be in the spot next door to their soda fountain [now Top Dog Coffee] for many years. It’s another great childhood memory that he says they sought to resurrect for their soda shop.

Marisa says their goal is to provide a way to help relax folks who seem to be getting pulled in different directions. “We wanted to slow things down,” she says.

And they have something else that could bring back a whole lot of happy memories — an honest to goodness Pacman video game that customers can play for free — wok-ah wok-ah wok-ah.

The couple’s reverence for a less complicated and more peaceful past includes their choice of vehicle. They have a “really cool” 1970s VW Westphalia van that she jokes about its lack of horsepower. “If you go uphill,” she laughs, “you’ve gotta lean forward, put all the weight towards the front.”

Their menu includes the usual delicacies that one might expect at a soda fountain — ice cream cups, milkshakes, malts, sundaes and of course banana splits, “But with a twist,” says Marisa.

Among their specialties are handmade sodas, with just about whatever flavors one can imagine, topped with whipped cream, and toppings. They have made-to-order ice cream sandwiches, with a choice of ice cream flavors sandwiched by cookies and topped with whip cream. They can even make a Lime Rickey soda.

They also make an incredible “loaded” milkshake. This reporter sampled a chocolate shake and got a, well, a work of art.

The cup was first coated inside with chocolate syrup and then filled with ice cream, whipped into a shake. The already enticing creation was then topped with whip cream, more syrup and even had chocolate cake icing with rainbow sprinkles along the rim. It comes with a necessarily, extra-large straw and parfait spoon. To say it was delicious would be an injustice.

“Sometimes,” Marisa says, “we top them with pie. It’s very over-the-top and fun. We wanted the shop to be whimsical and imaginative for every age, or if you just wanted a party in a cup.”

The business took quite a while to get opened, with a sign in the window proclaiming the soda shop was “coming soon,” seemingly forever. Marisa says the building had always been a “dry” use, meaning no food service. “Turning this over to a wet establishment took us some time with the City,” she says.

Ryan adds, “And right before we could open on April 1, the COVID hit.”

The two had to ask themselves if they should let it go or push through and open the shop? Their neighbors were a big help.

“We’re friends with Pat and Suzanne [Bietz] at Top Dog Coffee,” she says. “They’ve opened so many businesses. They came over and raised the bar for us and helped us get opened. They have very good hearts.” Ryan adds that all the businesses on their block have been supportive and encouraging — from Legend’s Tavern down the line. They even got encouragement from business owners on the Embarcadero.

“The community pulled together and said, ‘Let’s get going again,’” says Ryan. “We’re really feeling the love.”

“People have been coming in and cheering that we’re open,” Marisa says.

They plan to expand the menu and use of the building once the Coronavirus closures are finally over and they can use their entire space, including some tables out back.

They will host birthday parties, and other celebrations like doggie birthdays, and plan to bring in some non-dairy products and expand on breakfast. They offer a breakfast banana split, says Marisa. It’s yogurt, granola and topped with fruit made to look like a banana split and no doubt a delicious way to start the day.

The Bumble B Soda Co., is open from noon to 9 p.m. daily during the summer.

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