March was supposed to kick off the busy season for Southwest Soda Pop Shop at the Wharf. Instead, the soft-serve ice-cream shop from Darryl Jones and his four daughters—Brittany, Brianna, Andrea, and Lena—closed because of the pandemic. When it reopened at the end of May, only a few customers trickled in. The business received one government loan, but it didn’t help as much as the family thought it would.
“We were scared. We didn’t know what was going to happen next for us because these are our months to flourish and really do well. This is how we get money to survive through the wintertime,” Andrea says. “We were at a loss.”
Although Southwest Soda Pop Shop is only two years old, the family has had a presence at the Wharf for more than 25 years. Darryl previously owned a fish-cleaning business called Virgo Fish House and also ran the vending machines at the Wharf (hence the name Soda Pop Shop).
On Friday, June 5, as the family was preparing supplies to give out to Black Lives Matter protesters, Andrea, the youngest, sent a tweet asking for support to save the business. As the social media guru of the family, she tried to respond to everyone: “That’s how we go viral not just on Twitter but in our shop—we try to greet everyone with a smile.”
PLEASE HELP US SAVE OUR BUSINESS. We are a black female owned Ice cream shop located in SW DC @TheWharfDC we had to remain closed due to the pandemic resulting in great financial devistation. Black businesses are so important,especially right now .RT and spread the word. pic.twitter.com/69cCyMLzgT
— . (@feelthatdrea) June 5, 2020
The response was overwhelming. The tweet amassed around 30,000 retweets. At the same time, a GoFundMe page quickly surpassed its $10,000 goal and has now raised over $24,000. Just as important, people started showing up in droves.
“We spent a lot of Saturday crying out of joy,” Brittany says. “We were just so overwhelmed with the love and support that we received, serving customers and just sobbing because they were there. Now we’re waiting on literally hundreds of customers a day, and that’s what we needed.”
In the past week, people have lined up down the boardwalk for cones, floats, and “cake explosions,” their signature parfait with layers of cake and ice cream plus toppings. (The walkup window also sells fruit smoothies, half-smokes, and of course, soda pop.) They’ve added markers on the ground to ensure social distancing.
— . (@feelthatdrea) June 7, 2020
“We had several people even stand in line for the hour, and they were blessed to stand in line,” Lena says. “They’d come up to the register and say that they would stand in line for another hour just to help support us.”
While the Covid crisis is far from over, the sisters are optimistic that the wave of attention will give them the necessary boost to see them through it.
“The uncertainty, we just don’t know, but the outpouring again has been amazing,” Brianna says. “We’re going to keep going and operating as long as we can.”
Southwest Soda Pop Shop. 1142 Maine Ave., SW.