St. Charles Soda Shop Had Old-Fashioned Charm

By Lauren Pike

Little O's
With the vintage look of something out of the 1950s, Little O’s sells treats from candy from less than a quarter, to cases of bottled soda to a variety of ice cream flavors.

Friendly family banter fills the room as the Ozenkoski family and employees surround the polished wooden counter of Little O’s Soda Shop in downtown St. Charles. From every angle of the shop the 1957 Chevy green walls, the old time soda bottles and the “Leave it to Beaver” episode playing in the back take customers back to the 40s and 50s.

“My husband’s nickname is Big O,” Christi said. “Since I’m running the shop, it became Little O’s.”

Little O’s opened in August 2012 after the Ozenkoski family was able to obtain an old fashioned soda fountain from Golden Eagle General store in Brussels, Illinois. Before deciding to open the shop, Christi worked at an outpatient center.  According to Christi, it was a difficult decision to leave her job in healthcare, but she wanted more time with the family and the family had always wanted to have have own business.

“I loved my job, but I wanted to take care of my kids in the afternoon,” Christi said.

Although Little O’s is a soda shop, soda isn’t the only thing this family specializes in. There is a bakery in the back of the shop where different baked goods are made. The most popular is the gooey butter cake. Using her husband’s secret gooey butter cake recipe from 1964, the shop’s bestseller is the gooey butter cake milkshake.

“My father goofed up the original formula and liked it so much that he kept it,” Christi said.

Their menu spotlights sundaes named after members of the family. The Littlest O Sundae, named after Christi’s seven-year-old son, Luke, includes vanilla ice cream served with Hershey’s syrup and lots of sprinkles. The Junior O Sundae, named after Jude, 12, features a homemade gooey butter brownie, two scoops of chocolate ice cream, topped with Hershey’s syrup, whipped cream and a cherry.

“[My favorite part] is getting to be surrounded by candy and soda,” Jude said. “Sorry, family time comes second.”

At first Little O’s was strictly run by family, but after gaining Nick Cash, their first regular customer, the Ozenkoski family hired him. A former Starbucks barista, Nick was easily able to adjust from coffee to ice cream.

“It felt good because there was a lot of trust involved in hiring me,” Nick said. “When [Christi] leaves, I’m the only man in the store.”

From the spinning silver bar stools to the light up Coca Cola signs, Christi thinks a soda shop is something that will go over really well in St. Charles. Because this is Little O’s first year, the Ozenkoski’s are still figuring out what to expect.

“This is a family place, and it’s a safe place for older teens to hang out, older people and young kids with parents and family,” Christi said.