Sunday, August 2, 2020

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Brad's Soda Shoppe

     Decades ago Cape Cod and America as a whole was far different than it is today. It seemed like a simpler time. Today’s senior citizens wistfully look back on them as the ‘good old days.’ America seemed smaller yet more wide open. Though still a summer destination the Cape in the 1920’s was quieter with far more wide open space. Even the busy Route 28 was more akin to a country road with pockets of empty grassland.

     In West Yarmouth in an area just east of Mill Hill one such open area became home to a soda shop. Soda shops were a staple of the first half of the 20th century. They were seen as a hangout for the younger generation and an alcohol-free alternative during Prohibition times. Brad’s Soda Shoppe would end up becoming much more as the property it stood on began as a simple business in a simple time and over the decades became an example of the progress and evolution of Cape Cod into what it is in the 21st century.

     Provincetown native Carl Bradshaw saw the land abutting Mill Creek as a perfect location for his new business. Though it would be originally operated as an open-air restaurant the new venture was named Brad’s Soda Shoppe. It opened in 1930 for the summer and saw some success despite being in such close vicinity to another popular restaurant Old Mill Tavern, located where the iconic Mill Hill Club would reside for decades later on.

     Bradshaw enticed passersby during the summer with ice cream, sodas, and lite fare featuring a daily noon special. The open-air layout did force the business to close during the winter. After the 1932 summer season the building was enclosed with heat installed to allow Brad’s to remain open year-round. By this time Brad’s as well as Old Mill Tavern had more potential customers to attract with the opening of the popular Rainbow Ballroom in between the two establishments.

     In September 1934 Brad’s further attempted to compete with the Old Mill Tavern by adding a steam table and electric stove to allow them to serve dinners as well. The bright exterior lights complimented the late hours and the cheery white enamel interior with green trim made this far more than a soda shop despite the name.

Brad's Soda Shoppe (Historical Society of Old Yarmouth)

     The Mill Hill area became a highly congested area on Cape Cod in the late 1930’s. Thanks to Brad’s, Rainbow Ballroom, and Old Mill Tavern there was a necessity at the time for several police officers to be stationed in the surrounding area to direct traffic. This increased popularity of the area and Brad’s in general gave Carl Bradshaw the incentive to enlarge the restaurant in 1940. The nearby Castle Dawn motel was enlarged at the same time along with new gas stations. Though the Old Mill Tavern was sold and became the Old Windmill House it appeared as though the 1940’s were to be quite prosperous. However world events would shake that trajectory.

The interior of Brad's Soda Shoppe (Historical Society of Old Yarmouth)

     America was dragged into World War II in December 1941. Bradshaw’s enlargements of his restaurant were costly yet he had faith that the increasing popularity of the Mill Hill area would make the costs worthwhile. However with the outbreak of the war in America there was tire rationing. The rubber was used for battlefield tank treads instead. The lack of new tires severely cut into the amount of people traveling during the summer.

     Business suffered for Brad’s Soda Shoppe throughout the 1942 season. Carl Bradshaw had also partially counted on increased business from the influx of soldiers at Falmouth’s Camp Edwards. This business increase did not happen and unfortunately the double shot of disappointment proved to be the tipping point for Brad’s. He sold the restaurant early in 1943 to Carl Maloney owner of the Maloney Drug Store in Dennis Port.

     In an especially sad piece of cruel irony the 1943 tourist season on Cape Cod saw a comeback and the new owners of the business, now known as Carl’s Sandwich Shop, reaped the rewards. Carl Bradshaw died on December 20, 1947 at the age of 69 at the home of his son Ireton in Cummaquid.

     Carl’s was run as a typical casual American-fare business. It offered dinner, take-out, seafood, steaks and chops. As the years went on it was managed by Jim Desmond in the late 1940’s and Bob Gardner in the early 1950’s. The food and service helped Carl’s garner a reputation as one of the finest eateries in the Mid-Cape area. It was helped by the fact that the Old Mill Tavern/Old Windmill House had been turned into a nightclub known as the Mill Hill Club in the late 1940’s thus eliminating some former restaurant competition.

     By the time the four Tsapatsaris brothers purchased Carl’s in May 1957 it had undergone extensive renovations. They would call the business Carl’s Restaurant and attempt on more than one occasion to secure a coveted liquor license to no avail. It took until 1965 for the Town of Yarmouth to extend a seasonal license to Carl’s. The Tsapatsaris family ran the seasonal restaurant for nearly twenty years before closing after the 1975 season. This brought to an end the more than four decades of the soda shop turned sandwich shop turned restaurant. However it was far from the end of the story.

The Cove at Yarmouth in 2020

     The property at 183 Rt. 28 in West Yarmouth only sat quiet for a few years. In 1979 the former Brad’s Soda Shoppe building was torn down. In its place would come the wave of Cape Cod’s future and present. After a few years of back and forth with the town a new resort hotel called The Cove at Yarmouth was constructed by Malcolm MacPhail. It still stands to this day and even has a popular restaurant The Loft on its premises keeping a little bit of what initially drew crowds to the property nearly a century ago.


My first eBook in 10 years, In Their Footsteps, featuring the interesting stories of Cape Cod's history, is on sale at

View my previous blog posts: In My Footsteps: Talkin' 'bout My Generation

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Cape Cod's Drive-Ins

Photo Prints available here: Smug

Be sure to check out my website: Christopher

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