Breen’s fountain sees booming business in its final days

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Breen’s fountain coffee regulars, from left, Paul Gandrud, Don Wilcox and Mark Kettelkamp play “the numbers game” for who will pay the bill.
Laree and Vyke Breen struggled with the decision to close the Breen’s fountain for a decade, but in the end it came down to the need for more space for the pharmacy and a steadily declining clientele.

The era of the ‘Big Brave’ comes to an end

Monday afternoon Florence Griffin, the wife of the late Dr. Richard Griffin of Benson, and son Tim were having one last lunch at Breen’s Pharmacy. They had come from Cold Springs to take in a nostalgic moment at the Breen’s Fountain before it was set to close at the end of the day Tuesday.

They, like many others over the past two weeks, since the advertisement ran in the Swift County Monitor-News Jan. 18 announcing the fountain was closing Jan. 31, made a special trip for a last visit to the fountain. But there were plenty of local people filling the booths, seated at the tables, and perched on blue stools as well.

Last Saturday the fountain was full of people visiting for one last Big Brave (burger, fries and a thick made-from-ice-cream shake), or Little Brave (burger, fries and a pop,) or just one last chocolate shake all by its delicious self.

The fountain has operated since the early 1960s when businessman/Pharmacist Dave Breen and his wife Gert opened the store at its new location on Pacific Avenue. Monday Gert said that Dave had opened the fountain to give people a place to sit while he filled their prescriptions.

Though a native of South Dakota, Dave Breen was an avid and devoted sports fan of the Benson Braves, from which the Big Brave and Little Brave got their names.

There was no hesitation in reopening the fountain after a fire gutted the store in December 1978. “The pack will be back,” Dave Breen wrote in a column in the Swift County Monitor shortly after the fire. The new store built in 1979 actually featured a fountain that was bigger with more seating.

Dave Breen’s son, Vyke, eventually joined his father in the Benson with his wife, Laree, an essential part of the business operation. A third generation of the family will soon become part of the business when Vyke and Laree’s daughter Ginger returns to Benson in July. She is graduating from the North Dakota State University in Fargo, N.D., this summer and will return to work along side her father and mother.

“Saturday was by far the biggest day the fountain has had in its whole history,” Vyke Breen said in an interview Monday. “Breakfast was normal, but from 11 o’clock until 2:30 it was gangbusters.” Laree Breen was making trips to Super Valu to restock the fountain with ice cream and ketchup.

“Saturday I had at least 25 calls asking how late the fountain was open,” Breen said. “I had calls from people asking if we were open Sunday.” The steady stream of people continued into Monday and Tuesday....

 

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Pictured, top: Breen’s fountain coffee regulars, from left, Paul Gandrud, Don Wilcox and Mark Kettelkamp play “the numbers game” for who will pay the bill.

Pictured, bottom: Laree and Vyke Breen struggled with the decision to close the Breen’s fountain for a decade, but in the end it came down to the need for more space for the pharmacy and a steadily declining clientele.

 

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