written by: Zanne Lamb-Hunt
Michelle Schaffer grew up in a large family in a small town in Minnesota. “My father was a Lutheran minister, so we moved around a lot.”
She attended a small Liberal Arts college in Portland, Oregon. She then “followed a sort of learning and education program around the world to become a scientist.”
As a biochemist, Michelle found employment in a small biotech company in Gaithersburg. She shares that she “just wanted to make the world a better place, as much as I could through science.”
She describes Downtown Frederick as “a great neighborhood that could have been placed in the middle of Portland.” And, she absolutely loved Portland!
“The community in Downtown Frederick is phenomenal. I’ve felt welcome there from the very beginning. It’s just really, really great.”
The Journey From Biochemist to Owner of a Boutique Soda Shop
“I sort of discovered along the way that scientists aren’t necessarily very happy people. There’s competition even amongst a group of scientists. “I’m very much a social scientist. I like to share and a lot of scientists are islands that do not want bridges.”
When Michelle found herself unemployed through a company layoff, she made the decision to find something that was better suited to her personality. She started training to become a tour guide for the Taste Frederick Food Tours.
She was introduced to the North Market Pop Shop. Eager to find a way to get into Downtown Frederick as any sort of enterprise, when Michelle heard that the shop was for sale, she took the leap into entrepreneurship. That was three years ago!
The business has moved to a roomier location just ten feet away from the tiny original shop. “We’ve exploded with so many more sodas, hot dogs and ice cream. It’s been pretty amazing.”
What’s Waiting For You At North Market Pop Shop
* Re-experience Some Experiences — Go Retro!
“We sometimes have groups come in where there are five generations. It creates a historical journey for family members. I’ve had people come to tears over finding their sodas.”
* Craft Sodas
“Every different type of flavor has been worked into a bubbly goodness and they are available for people to try.” This is much to the delight of one root beer fan who visits the shop every weekend in the hopes of discovering a new one.
“He’s up to over a hundred different root beers that he’s tried across the country,” says Michelle, “so, I’m always trying to find another root beer.”
* Create New Flavor Combinations!
“My science background does not stop. We experiment and we mix things together. We make floats of all kinds.
“Mix and match from all of the different flavors. You can make any type of float that you want with any of our sodas and any of our ice creams. You can really be creative and try anything.”
Michelle candidly admits, “We have some crazy flavors that are pretty bad!” She’s quick to add, “But most are really awesome!”
* Create Your Own Signature Custom Mixers For Your Next Party
Concoct and serve your own unique beverages by creating your own mixers. Combine soda pop types and flavors to add a new twist!
* Soda Pop Connoisseurs To Guide You
“Myself and all my employees are definitively soda pop connoisseurs. We taste things like you sip and taste wine.
“We explain to people the different flavors, how the bubbles feel, how they’re actually processed and made and if they’re fermented.”
* After School Safe Zone That’s Fun & Cool
Kids love to hang out at the North Market Pop Shop. “They do a lot of snapchatting, of course.”
They also relish (yes, pun intended!) choosing from an assortment of toppings for North Market Pop Shop’s award-winning hot dogs! And, creating some pretty cool float combos!
* It’s A Delectable Alternative Break!
“People are super excited! They don’t want to give up soda completely because they know they need to maybe cut down their sugar intake.
“This gives us all an alternative break. An amazing dessert or experience comes with soda.”
The Biggest Challenge Of Owning North Market Pop Shop
“A lot of weird soda infrastructure was built by Pepsi, Coke, Dr. Pepper and all of the big brands. They make it virtually impossible to get some things across state lines.
“There are many rules with distribution that have created problems with getting stuff into the state. I almost have to have little distribution places outside of the state just to get some of the regular sodas.”
Shipping the soda also presents a challenge. “They tend to get well shaken. Luckily, we haven’t had too much breakage.”
Advice Michelle Would Give To Herself If She Could Go Back In Time
“Think big. Think as big as you possibly can because just thinking in small bits doesn’t necessarily get you where you want to be. If you think really big, you can go even further than you ever thought.”
She continues, “A lot of it has to do with the big picture and not necessarily the books that you’re looking at right now. Think BIG!
“It’s so easy to get caught up in the ‘every day’ and just making sure that all of the right stuff is in the shop instead of thinking about all the stuff that we want to build and how to get it to the people.
“Figure out a way to take over the whole soda pop universe! That’s what we’re trying to do…please everyone!”
Michelle Is Making A Difference In Some Warm, Wonderful & Unexpected Ways
Michelle recalls being out to dinner in Downtown Frederick when she was approached by one of the waiters. She knew him as one of the regulars at the North Market Pop Shop but then learned just how much her shop means to him.
“He’s a recovering alcoholic. The North Market Pop Shop, with all of its different flavors and all of the great employees — who just love to talk about soda, and listen and love life so much — helped him to make it through his first year and then his second year of sobriety.
“He would come in every day and try a new soda and have a great experience. This is the type of thing that we’re trying to do here.
“We’re trying to make sure that people feel welcomed and helped and that we can create such fantastic experiences that it can help them through hard times.”
This biochemist speaks as a passionate soda pop connoisseur who absolutely loves her entrepreneurial life. “Soda pop is awesome — just completely awesome in so many ways!” She continues, “It brings people together.”
Michelle Won’t Be Giving Up PayPal Here
“Our whole register system runs on PayPal Here. I don’t know how people had small businesses or store fronts before they could look all day long to see how they were doing exactly.
“I can do it from anywhere. I can be at home doing all my paperwork and I can check. That program has made it really possible to be able to expand. It’s made everything quite simple and easy.”
Michelle Shares A Few Inspiring Quotes
[Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.] – Albert Einstein
[Just keep swimming.] – Dory
“I think it’s important to keep moving in terms of what you’re doing professionally and keep moving for what you need to do physically.
“Make sure that every day keeps going by and you’re getting all the things that you’re working towards.”
Memories and soda pop just seem to go together. Stir some old ones and create some new ones with a family visit to North Market Pop Shop.
And, be sure to indulge in an award-winning hot dog while you’re there and you’ll understand why they’re the talk of the town! You’ll be talking about it, too!
Open 7 days a week!
241 North Market Street
240 – 575 – 9070
Contents Provided by Frederick Advice Givers Podcast Episode #086: Eric Verdi Interviews Michelle Schaffer