Boyhood haunt site of premium ice cream shop in DuluthIce cream is coming back to London Road with the reopening this month of the old Dairy Queen shop at 17th Avenue East.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
Ice cream is coming back to London Road with the reopening this month of the old Dairy Queen shop at 17th Avenue East.
But this time around, it will be serving Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, a popular premium ice cream made by a company based in Madison.
Besides using waffle cones made on site and rotating its 20 or so flavor offerings, Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream of Lake Superior will offer soft serve, malts, root beer floats and the Avalanche, its version of the DQ Blizzard, made with Oreos, M&Ms, candy bars and cookie dough blended in. Blended fruit drinks, a healthy smoothie and a high energy ice cream will follow. Light food fare is possible down the road.
For owner Craig Binsfield, nostalgia made him take the ice cream plunge.
Growing up in eastern Duluth, the London Road Dairy Queen was a frequent stop for him. He loved going there. And when it opened each spring, it meant summer was coming.
The DQ closed in the 1990s, after the Interstate 35 freeway extension went through, diverting traffic away from that stretch of London Road. The building with the signature Dairy Queen red roof was left vacant and fell into disrepair.
The sight of his boyhood haunt deteriorating bothered Binsfield, who owns Benefit Advisors Inc. in Duluth. Last year, he could take it no longer. So he bought the 540-square-foot building and 50-by-140-foot lot for $35,000, according to city records. At first, he planned to rent it out. Then the thought of opening a seasonal ice cream shop there himself, especially with his son and daughter eager to work there, took hold.
Binsfield considered many ice cream brands before deciding on Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, which has won national awards and been featured on the Food Network.
“It’s really delicious,” Binsfield said. “It’s extra creamy, extra good. It’s high in fat and butter content, but made with natural ingredients.”
Repairs and renovations on the building that began last year are now wrapping up at the site. And once it passes final Minnesota Department of Health and city inspections, signs announcing the Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream of Lake Superior will go up, and it will open for business. A manager and a former Dairy Queen employee are lined up to work at the shop, along with several local teens and Binsfield’s two teen-aged children to round out a staff of eight.
“We are really, really, really close,” Binsfield said last week. “We have it pretty much done, with a few more fixtures to go up.”
Binsfield’s investment in the site’s construction work and restaurant equipment has exceeded the $50,000 he anticipated. But he’s taking it in stride as the opening day approaches sometime this month.
“It’s important to do it right,” he said.
Current plans are to be open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., through Halloween.
Neighboring merchants interviewed are looking forward to the ice cream shop’s re-opening as the London Road business district continues to rebound.
“I think it’s great for London Road,” said Jerry Kortesmaki, owner of London Road Rental across the street. “With the amount of people that go up and down to the Lakewalk using the 17th (Avenue East) go-through and with the growth of the medical community, London Road still has a big traffic count.”
While he doesn’t think the ice cream shop will boost his business, he expects many of his customers will be going there for ice cream after doing business with him.
However, Scott Lindquist, manager of Diamond Vogel Paints next door, does think his store can gain customers. Obviously people will be getting ice cream, but Vogel and a nearby Chinese restaurant can benefit, he said.
“Even if they don’t buy (from us then), maybe the thought will be in their heads, and they’ll remember us later,” he said.
While super-premium ice cream doesn’t come cheap, Binsfield thinks his low overhead can keep prices competitive and family friendly. Also offering soft serve from another vendor that’s cheaper will help, allowing them to sell kid-size cones for a little as 50 cents, he said.
“Our goal is to make this thing accessible to families, where they’re not breaking the bank taking their kids down to get ice cream,” Binsfield said. “I’d want to make it affordable so any kid with some change in his pocket can go down to get a soft serve ice cream cone.”