Give 'em what they want and they'll come.
That's the motto Robert Powell is banking on. Powell is the principal owner of the former Buckhorn Saloon, which closed two years ago. In its place, Powell and business partner Ryan Morgan, son of Camarillo City Councilmember Mike Morgan, plan to open the family-friendly Rocket Fizz, an old-fashioned soda pop shop and candy store.
Powell describes the store as "Willie Wonka meets soda pop."
"When you see it, you're going to walk in the store and go, 'Holy moley,'" Powell said. "We really do have the concept."
Rocket Fizz customers will be able to choose from 1,400 oldfashioned sodas in glass bottles, such as Nehi, Vernors, and others that are difficult to find in the carbonated beverage aisle of the typical grocery store.
The 1,850-square-foot store with the 1950s theme will also feature dried fruit, nuts, gag gifts and old-fashioned windup toys and candy, such as peanut brittle.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," said Ryan Morgan, who owns a franchise that sells old-fashioned soda pop to stores in Nevada and Northern California.
Morgan said becoming business partners with longtime friend Powell in Rocket Fizz seemed a natural choice.
"It all kind of made sense to do it," he said.
Renovation on the interior of the 102-year-old building at the eastern end of Ventura Boulevard in Old Town started four months ago and includes the addition of an outside patio. Work is expected to be completed in the next few weeks.
But local historians shouldn't worry, Powell said, because the remodel will incorporate some of the original brick.
Ventura County issued its second liquor license to the Buckhorn Saloon, which opened its doors in 1906, said historian Stan Daily, who's also Camarillo's mayor emeritus.
The saloon operated continuously until 2006, making it the oldest tavern in county history. It had been in the center of town, two doors away from the library, until 1940, when the fire station, which also served as the community center, was built on Ventura Boulevard's west end.
In its early history, area farmers regularly trekked to the saloon to pass the time with friends, a bottle of beer and a deck of cards.
Gambling in the saloon's back room was legal until 1964, when Camarillo incorporated and banned gaming, Daily said. He remembers when he was a child eating a hamburger and French fries in front of the saloon while his dad was in the back gambling.
True to its family-friendly theme, Rocket Fizz will not serve alcohol. When deciding what type of business would do well there and complement the redevelopment of Old Town, Powell spoke to Mike Morgan, who said a business of that type would be good for the city.
"The City Council loves to see good things going in," Mike Morgan said.