I’d wager that every native, and recent guest, to The Shoals would urge future visitors to set aside time for lunch at Trowbridge’s Ice Cream Parlor and Sandwich Shop. The universally beloved local eatery is a backdrop for so many of our memories, and it has managed to serve up simple, delicious food for decades, while keeping its unpretentious charm. The green awning and the window advertising “Sandwiches, Ice Cream, Sundaes” are as iconic to residents as any official logo or state seal.
The little shop was opened in 1918 by Paul Trowbridge and is still run by his grandson. The story (as it was told to me) says that in 1917, Mr. Trowbridge was traveling to North Carolina for a dairy convention and stopped in Florence on the way. He loved the lush area and the town enough to move his family from Texas to Florence and opened Trowbridge’s shortly thereafter.
The ice cream shop is the area’s oldest business still operating out of its original location—on Court Street in downtown Florence. The restaurant first served only milk and ice cream, including a unique local specialty: orange pineapple ice cream. As time went by, the Trowbridge family added hot dogs, chili, and sandwiches to their menu.
When you walk into the sandwich shop, particularly around the lunch rush, you will find it packed and buzzing with activity. Lunch goers must politely seat themselves and wait (usually less than a minute) for a waitress to take their order.
The hand-painted menu looks exactly the same today as it did decades ago and lists the simple but delicious options: sandwiches, drinks, ice cream, malts and shakes, ice cream soda, and sundaes. The sign also reminds you of what every loyal customer already knows: Wednesday is bean day.
The decor is classic ice cream parlor with well-kept vintage mint green booths, chairs, and stools, flecked counters and tabletops, and mint and white checkered floors. The lunch counter is lined with eight bar stools facing a long mirror. The walls are filled with pictures—of early Florence and notable area events—including the building of Wilson Dam and one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt touring the area by train. It has looked this way for as long as anyone can remember.
While Trowbridge’s made their own ice cream for the first 50 (or so) years, the responsibility of maintaining their classic orange pineapple ice cream was passed along to Nashville’s Purity Dairy several years ago. But, fancy ice cream retailers take note: one huge scoop of ice cream in a cone will cost you a mere $1.20. And even though Trowbridge’s was named by Travel and Leisure as one of “50 Reasons to Love the U.S.A Now” (among other accolades), we guarantee you will receive the same friendly service they’ve always offered and the same delicious ice cream that Shoals natives have been enjoying for generations.
Find Trowbridge’s Ice Cream Parlor and Sandwich Shop at 316 North Court Street in Florence. We recommend a hot dog, an egg and olive sandwich, and—of course—a scoop of orange pineapple ice cream.
Trowbridge’s Ice Cream Parlor and Sandwich Shop
316 North Court Street
Monday – Saturday, 9:00am – 7:00pm
Photos courtesy of Robert Rausch