- When Sip 'n Soda opened its doors on Hampton Road in 1958 eager customers settled onto the runway of lunch stools along the counter, sampling a steady stream of burgers, club sandwiches, and homemade ice cream. Now, 50 years later, though some customers have changed, the counter stools and classic 1950s look remain a calling card of a luncheonette that continues to be a mainstay of village life as change goes on around them.
Mark Parash, who runs Sip 'n Soda with his uncle Jim, is the third
generation Parash to help run the family business.
"We're Greeks and we're stubborn," Mark Parash, who runs the restaurant with his uncle Jim, joked commenting on the familiar decor. "Remember the old adage? If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Sip 'n Soda was founded by Parash's grandparents, William and Nicolleta, and has remained a family business ever since. William Parash's sons, Jim and Paul, later took over the business, joined by Mark, Paul's son, in 1993. "My father was involved until the day he couldn't be," Parash said of his father Paul who died in February of this year at the age of 74. "The opportunity to work with my father and my uncle on a daily basis" made the job worth doing, Parash said. "I learned a lot from them."
"I love it," he added. "No one looks after you like family."
The family's relationship with the East End goes back to the 1920s, when William Parash first opened The Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton. The family also owned the Paradise Sweet Shop on the North Fork. Mark Parash, third generation to the local lineage, isn't certain why his family settled on Long Island. "That's something my father and grandfather couldn't answer," he said, noting it might have been that there were other Greek families settling nearby.
The customers, some of whom are friends from high school and others who knew his grandparents, provide the luncheonette with strong links to the community and to the history of Southampton. The reason Sip 'n Soda has thrived is due in no small part to that "tremendous community support," Parash said. "It's rewarding because it's such a special place." In a restaurant world of up-market eateries and ever changing food fashions, Sip 'n Soda has remained "strictly an old-fashioned luncheonette," he added.
Sip 'n Soda, opened in 1958, has retained its classic luncheonette look.
Mark, now 37, didn't work at Sip 'n Soda when he was younger - "I think that's why I'm here now," he joked. "I didn't get burned out." While in elementary
school, Parash had permission to walk over to Sip 'n Soda during his lunch break. "I felt like a big shot
," he recalled, adding, "There were a lot of laughs."
Now, as he works the proprietor's side of the counter, Parash is quick to give plaudits to the staff, "the first line of defense" during the "controlled chaos" that arrives with the summer months. "We have a really great staff. It's one of the reasons we've been successful," he said.
During summer months Sip 'n Soda stays open late to fill the demand for ice cream.
Longevity is key, as one waitress has been waiting tables at the restaurant for seven years, another for three, and Parash's high school friend Scott Jarzombeck has worked at the restaurant for twenty. On a rainy day in the summer, when the restaurant is crammed with customers, Parash said he looks at his staff and thinks "they're being troopers."
The long hours spent in Sip 'n Soda afford Parash the opportunity to stay in touch with his past while staying fresh on events and happenings, small and large, that occur in Southampton. From some of the older customers, "I get told stories about my grandparents," Parash said.
Over the lunch counter, a dish of gossip and political sides are traded, and, on slower days, he and a regular patron
share the crossword. In fact, he knows so many people from his years at the restaurant that on a recent trip to Mexico, "I bumped into a gentleman I knew from here," Parash said. "It's a small world."
Although the pace may be quick at Sip 'n Soda, it remains, as Parash put it, "a throwback," adapting to changing times without foregoing an eggcream for customers looking for a taste of nostalgia. "There's a comfort in that," Parash assured.
According to Parash, breakfast is more popular in the summer, while lunch service draws bigger crowds during winter months.