Take An ICEE Trip Down Memory Lane With The Traveling Hills Snack Bar

A mobile version of the defunct department store's concession stand hits the road this summer.


Good news for Pittsburghers, who, like me, are over the hill. 

This summer, Hills Snack Bar is making a comeback. 

Aliquippa resident Jason Powell, 40, is lovingly launching a mobile version of the defunct department store’s concession stand, where his doting grandparents plied him with sweets (as doting grandparents are wont to do) before the chain closed in the early aughts.

The food trailer will serve all the store’s traditional treats such as popcorn, hot dogs, soft pretzels, nachos and cheese, cotton candy, candied nuts and ICEEs. When Powell announced the idea late last year, it led to a floodgate of messages from folks who never stopped singing the “Hills is where the toys are!” jingle. 

Powell grew up near the Hills in Hopewell, and that site is sacred ground to him. The building in Green Garden Plaza is now a Big Lots

“Even now, when I take my kids to Big Lots, I say, ‘Come on! We’re going to Hills!’”

This isn’t just a novelty gig for Powell; he’s passionate about Hills, even going as far as to consult a patent attorney and re-register the logo of the company, which was purchased by Ames in 1999. Then the company went bankrupt, assets were sold off and all remaining stores were shuttered in 2002.

“Nobody in over 20 years has taken steps to keep the Hills logo current,” Powell says. 

The familiar branding graces the trailer and box truck as well as T-shirts and other memorabilia that he’ll sell in addition to food. Those memorable munchies will taste the same — because, for the most part, they are.


Powell says he’s working with several companies that supplied Hills with its signature menu items back in the day, including New Jersey-based J&J Snack Foods Corp. and Gold Medal Products Co., which has a Pittsburgh location.

Powell will navigate through the Steel City’s hilly terrain to attend community day festivals and private events. He’s already considering a second unit to keep up with the demand from wistful, middle-aged yinzers who want to up their blood sugar like they did as kids in the ‘80s. (I know I’m going to drink a cherry ICEE so fast my brain will freeze like a Parkway overpass in February!)

But Powell’s main stops will be at former Hills sites throughout the region (a former employee sent him a list with more than 200 locations).  

Although the official launch date has yet to be determined, Powell says it’ll take place where it all started for him: the parking lot of that used-to-be-a-Hills in Hopewell.

Customers will be able to grab their nostalgic swag out of a vintage Hills shopping cart  — in the ‘Burgh it’s called a “buggy” — that rolls with the truck and then buy some sentimental snacks. Since Fuel and Fuddle, my favorite bar, is closing next week, the revival of Hills Snack Bar warms my broken, beer-soaked heart. 

Pretty soon, when Powell tells his kids it’s time to go to Hills, he’ll actually mean it. 

Categories: PGHeats