BY KEN THOMPSON
In any other year, one of the joys of summertime is an ice cream cone after a ballgame or a day at the park.
But 2020 hasn’t been any other year. Fortunately for Greater Lafayette, two ice cream institutions and a relative newcomer are open for business. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted Silver Dipper more than the Original Frozen Custard and Budge’s, which unlike Silver Dipper, are seasonal businesses.
David Carlson, whose family opened the first of two Silver Dipper stores in 2001, lost about a month of business.
“In mid-March we decided to close out of an abundance of caution,” Carlson says. “We sold our existing inventory to other small independent ice cream shops in Indiana. By mid-April our supplier was ramping up production again and we decided to reopen.”
Silver Dipper, which has locations at 201 E. State St. and 307 Sagamore Parkway West, has strictly followed guidelines from the Tippecanoe County Health Department regarding cleaning, masks and social distancing.
“The reopening has gone well,” Carlson says. “Since we began accepting credit cards in 2016, we were already set up to provide contactless payment options. We also created an online store thru silverdipper.com, where customers can order and pay online, then pick up their order through carryout or curbside.”
The Carlson family spent years working in Chicago and commuting from northwest Indiana, all with a goal of buying a business in central Indiana. The Carlsons purchased the Baskin Robbins store at Purdue West in 2000, believing the presence of Purdue University and Tippecanoe County’s diversified economy was a good business risk.
A year later, the Carlsons broke away from Baskin Robbins and opened the Silver Dipper location on Sagamore Parkway. Two years later, the Levee store followed.
“We decided to go independent in order to have more control over product quality, pricing and equipment,” Carlson says.
“We consider the Sagamore Parkway store to be our ‘family store’ and the Levee to be the ‘campus store.’ But we see a lot of families and Lafayette customers at our Levee location too. Plus being the largest city in the county we see customers from all over the area.”
One of Silver Dipper’s trademarks is a variety of flavors, approximately 40 year-round flavors which are available on the website.
“We try to keep a variety to appeal to everyone, but it is customer demand that determines which flavors we carry,” Carlson says. “We also carry ‘no sugar added’ options as well as Italian ices, which are non-dairy and non-fat.”
When asked to list Silver Dipper’s best-selling flavors, Carlson names Zanzibar, Oreo, Cookie Dough, Zoreo (Zanzibar and Oreo mixed together) and Peanut Butter Cookie Dough.
Only Zanzibar made the lengthy list of Carlson family favorites, which include Toffee Chocolate Chip, This S&@! Just Got Serious, Chocolate Cherry Bomb, Coconut Almond Bliss and Pistachio.
Carlson and his family are grateful that not only have customers returned to buy ice cream but also merchandise such as Silver Dipper themed T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, cups and stickers.
“Lately, we have seen customers purchase them as a way to support their favorite local businesses during this difficult time,” he says.
“We have been touched by the amount of support and concern for our business. We have loved being a part of the community the past 20 years and look forward to many more years serving our customers.”
When it comes to years of serving Greater Lafayette customers, few local businesses can approach the many decades that the Original Frozen Custard and Budge’s have been open.
The Original Frozen Custard had a humble beginning in 1932, when Florence and Charles Kirkhoff began selling vanilla frozen custard from a stand next to Columbian Park. A year later, the Kirkhoffs’ secret recipe was expanded to include chocolate and strawberry frozen custard.
The Kirkhoffs had to use salt to freeze their frozen custard because modern refrigeration and freezers were not yet available. While the recipe remains a secret to this day, we do know that frozen custard contains 4 percent egg yolk and a fraction of the whipped air contained in regular ice cream.
Another Frozen Custard tradition, the fruit drink, was created because Florence Kirkhoff didn’t care for soda pop. Charles Kirkhoff’s business sense, though, led to a deal with Coca-Cola in 1934. The Original Frozen Custard remains one of Coca-Cola’s oldest accounts.
The iconic art deco building was constructed in 1949 across from what is now Loeb Stadium. Twenty years later, the Kirkhoffs passed the business to their daughter, Charlene, and her husband, Dick Lodde. They expanded the menu to offer more products, flavors and food.
The Kirkhoffs originally called their business “The Igloo,” a name that was revived in 1998 by Bill and Kathy Lodde. The two Igloo locations on Veterans Memorial Parkway have expanded the line of Frozen Custard flavors, added more sundaes and sandwiches, including an old favorite: the Original Double Decker.
Budge’s (pronounced bud-gees) bills itself as “Lafayette’s best kept secret since 1942.”
Like the Original Frozen Custard, Budge’s had a simple beginning when Wallace Budge converted a gas station on the corner of 14th and Hartford streets into a root beer stand.
The original stand was razed in the 1950s and the current structure was built facing 14th Street. It was then that Budge’s added ice cream, burgers and other treats to the menu.
That helped Budge’s draw lunchtime business from nearby St. Elizabeth Hospital and after- school lines from Linnwood Elementary students. Budge ran the business until he sold out in 1968.
The years have passed, and St. Elizabeth is no longer in the neighborhood. Neither is Linnwood Elementary School. But Budge’s is still around and approaching its 80th birthday.
Its menu probably wouldn’t be recognized by Charles Budge today, with flavored drinks, a wide variety of ice cream, shakes, parfaits, sodas and sundaes. Food options range from the traditional cheeseburger to chicken tenders and coney dogs.