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Every Columbian has seen the attentive ice cream guard dog who sits outside Sparky’s downtown, 21 S. Ninth St. He has the happy eyes and the slouchy smile of a bulldog. He stands forever still, with an almost audible whine inviting walkers to come in.
This place is city landmark, but, each time people come in they go quickly to the counter, buy their homemade ice cream, and leave, without a second thought about the place. The building itself is alive, and has its very own bright green personality.
Covering the glass doors and windows are many colored posters and flyers proclaiming the various going-ons of the city. They overlap, and as the corners peak out from below, they become almost a Columbia paper trail mosaic. The place smells like vanilla, and the chairs, all in bright colors and geometric shapes, surround little, round made-for-two tables. In the corner a woman sits with her fur lined coat about her shoulders and one hand holding her toppling strawberry cone and the other balancing a paperback book. With a little dribble of pink ice-cream on her chin, she is completely absorbed by her book and sweet.
In the front of the building, the parlor–like lights shine brightly on the multi-colored sweets. Classic flavors like chocolate and cake batter represent themselves, but so do local favorites like Rice Krispie Treat.
After settling down in the seat, with a chosen ice cream, float or shake, the visitors realize they are far from alone. Crocheted animals and cartoon characters look down from their various perches — an attentive, and sometimes creepy, audience. Paintings, too, seem to have their eyes on the customers – Multiple clown frowns, two alien abduction scenes and an Asian boy with buckteeth, are an eerie addition to the sugar cones.
When the ice cream is enjoyed, and every finger is satisfactorily sticky, the chairs screech back into place, the door swings shut, and Sparky – the faithful bulldog – barks goodbye, come again soon.
So next time a visit to Sparky’s is in order, take a moment. Savor not only the ice cream, but the place, for that is what’s really special about it.
By Maria Kalaitzandonakes