TNT Diner

Don’s Ruston Market closes, ending an era for the old-fashioned soda shop after 35 years

Don’s Ruston Market & Deli.
Don’s Ruston Market & Deli. Sue Kidd

After more than three decades in business, Don’s Ruston Market & Deli has closed.

Co-owners Don and Beth Torbet call it a retirement from the cafe with a soda fountain and lunch counter. The shop started as a general store more than 100 years ago. The Torbets turned it into a soda shop about 35 years ago.

“Thirty-five years with our hearts full of wonderful memories,” recounted Beth Torbet by message. “We move forward to our next chapter.”

She added, “We don’t have any plans at this time other than taking time to close out the books and relax.”

What happens next at the Don’s Ruston Market space is uncertain. The couple own the building at the corner of North 51st Street and North Winnifred Street.

“Whatever happens in the building’s next life is yet to be determined,” she said.

Don’s Ruston Market soda counter.jpg
The soda counter at Don’s Ruston Market. Staff file, 2014 Sue Kidd

Don’s Ruston Market & Deli has been a mainstay for sweets, soda and ice cream lovers for an entire generation.

It was one of few places in the region serving old-fashioned soda counter treats such as brown cows, the timeless combination of root beer and chocolate ice cream.

Coke souvenir products around the world on display at Don’s Ruston Market & Deli. Staff file, 2007 Lui Kit Wong

The soda shop also sold phosphates, which are sodas flavored with a sour jolt of citric acid. Ice cream was served in a cone or a dish. They served banana splits, chocolate malts and a far-flung list of shake flavors. There was a small menu of cheeseburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches.

The most popular item on the soda shop menu was a float — made with vanilla ice cream and Cherry Coke — Don Torbet said back in 2014 for a story about the soda shop.

Beth Torbet, co-owner of Don’s Ruston Market in Ruston, serving a drink to a customer in an old soda fountain setting at the Don’s Ruston Market. Staff file, 2007 Sue Kidd

Behind the counter was a soda dispenser, manufactured in 1946 by the Andrews Co., that was a temperamental beast. It had a history of being mostly out of commission.

“They leak bad but I can still sometimes make them work,” said Torbet of the flimsy lines of that old soda fountain. The fountain previously had a life at a general store in Mineral before Torbet installed it at his Ruston store.

Don Torbet always was ready to give customers a fountain history lesson, whether it was a retelling of the fountain’s origins, tracing the roots of phosphates from the drug stores of yesteryear or pointing out to a curious customer that egg creams originated in Brooklyn.

Don Torbet, owner of Don’s Ruston Market in Ruston offer kayaks to customers to rent at his mom and pop market. Staff file, 2007 Lui Kit Wong

Torbet was especially proud of the collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia. All of the pieces in the collection were gifted to the family.

“Every piece has been brought in by our customers,” he said.

Before the Torbets bought the corner store, Don’s was owned by a few different families. According to the News Tribune’s archives, the store opened in 1917 to serve the families of the smelter employees.

Sue Kidd: 253-597-8270, @tntdiner
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