Back in the 1970s and ‘80s, Thrifty Drug Stores dotted suburban Arizona. You could get cotton balls and cough medicine, fill a prescription and buy inexpensive bottles of no-frills cologne or perfume for that unexpected holiday guest.
Thrifty also had an ice cream counter where employees scooped cylinder-shaped servings of rocky road, rainbow, pistachio, pecan praline, chocolate malted krunch, cotton candy, lemon head and dozens of unique flavors into simple cake cones and sent you on your way for 10 or 15 cents a scoop.
The cost has gone up significantly in the three decades that have passed since Thrifty got bought out by Rite Aid and mostly left Arizona. When Thrifty Ice Cream shop opens for business at Tucson Mall in late November or early December, it will cost you $2.99 for a single scoop and goes up from there.
Thrifty, taking over the Teavana tea shop space on the second level in the mall, 4500 N. Oracle Road, could have as many as 20 flavors of ice cream, said General Manager Chris Lopez.
Lopez said Thrifty plans to open about five ice cream shops in Tucson before moving into the Phoenix market. The company, which is based in San Diego, is banking largely on nostalgia, reminding people of their youth.
Lopez said since construction started on the shop this week, he’s had a number of people stop by to recount their Thrifty Ice Cream memories. And Lopez will gladly swap stories, telling about the times he ate Thrifty’s when he was a young boy in Sierra Vista.
“My mom used to take me to the pharmacy and I remember sometimes you would have to get the cashier and she would call, ‘Hey we have someone in Thrifty Ice Cream,’ and they would come up to the counter,” he said.
“I think it’s going to do well here in Tucson,” he said. “The brand is well known in Tucson. I think it’s a good complement (to the mall).”
Unlike the original Thrifty’s Ice Cream that was just a counter, the Tucson Mall shop will include several tables and chairs. The menu also will include soft drinks, banana splits and other treats. It will be open during mall hours.