Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Loving home-grown ice cream shops like The Blast September 14, 2022

A sign points to the Blast’s location in downtown Northfield, Minnesota. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

THERE’S STILL TIME. Still time to indulge in a sweet treat before winter closes in and home-grown ice cream shops shutter for the season here in Minnesota.

The Blast walk-up window is located at the end of the “tunnel” to the left. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

On an August weekday afternoon in Northfield, Randy and I popped into The Blast, an ice cream shop in an out-of-the-way spot just west of the library, off Division Street and down the sidewalk toward the Cannon River. The walk-up window is located inside a “tunnel” wedged between buildings and labeled “The Nutting Block, Est. 1893.”

A steady flow of customers kept this employee busy taking ice cream orders. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

We happened upon this business a previous summer Saturday, but left after seeing the lengthy line of customers. This time, on a Wednesday, there was no waiting. Rather, the friendly teen behind the window waited patiently for us to choose from a wide array of treats.

A Red Raspberry Sundae. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

I opted for the limited specialty Puppy Chow Flurry while Randy chose a Red Raspberry Sundae. Puppy Chow is a snack made from Chex cereal covered first in melted chocolate and peanut butter, then coated in powdered sugar.

Lots of choices at The Blast. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

Selections at The Blast are vast and deciding isn’t easy when the choices in smoothies, slushies, shakes, malts, floats, frosties, flurries, sundaes and cones seem nearly endless.

A group orders ice cream treats on an August weekday afternoon. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

We both enjoyed our soft-serve ice cream treats at a riverside picnic table on a perfect summer day. There’s something about summer and ice cream that go together, especially soft-serve ordered at a walk-up window.

Through the order window, I spotted this portrait. Anna drew multiple portraits and hid them around the shop, her co-worker told me. A fun discovery. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

The Blast has adjusted hours now that school is back in session and days are shorter. Current hours are 3:15 – 8 pm Monday – Friday and 11 am – 8 pm Saturday and Sunday.

As soon as I saw this sign, I knew I would order the Puppy Chow Flurry. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

As with the limited edition Puppy Chow Flurry, The Blast continues to offer seasonal or limited edition specialty flavors. Like the current pumpkin spice and apple crisp, oh, so fitting for fall in Minnesota. This time of year we crave those flavors.

The Puppy Chow Flurry. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

My appreciation for home-grown ice cream shops with creative offerings runs deep. I’m all in when it comes to trying something new, something different, something decidedly cold and yummy and all about summer here in southern Minnesota.

This sandwich board sign along Division Street directs customers down the sidewalk toward the river, to The Blast. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

TELL ME: Do you have a favorite home-grown ice cream shop? What’s your ice cream treat of choice? The Blast also has a location in Owatonna, where I’ve found another terrific ice cream place, The S’Cream.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Owatonna: I scream for ice cream April 21, 2016

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The S'Cream and an insurance agency office are connected.

The S’Cream and an insurance agency office are connected to one another.

I LOVE HOMEGROWN walk-up ice cream shops. They have character. And ice cream treats that are scrumptious and often uniquely named.

This sign explains The Betty and lists other available treats.

This sign explains The Betty and lists other available treats.

Take The S’Cream, a seasonal ice cream shop advertised as “Home of The Betty,” and located along Owatonna’s busy South Oak Avenue.

The Betty, presumably named after someone.

The Betty, presumably named after Betty.

What is The Betty? It is, I discovered, Cool Mint Flavor Burst ice cream, crème de mint and Oreos flurried together, then topped with whipped cream. And let’s not forget the sprinkles. I can attest to The Betty’s sweet deliciousness.

My husband ordered this blue raspberry ice cream treat.

My husband ordered this blue raspberry ice cream treat.

Equally as delectable is the blue raspberry Flavor Burst ice cream treat my husband enjoyed at The S’Cream. It’s actually the owner’s favorite. He tells me the staff is often dreaming up new ice cream offerings. How fun is that?

If you were to create a treat for an ice cream shop, what would you concoct?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Delighting in ice cream shops, yes, even in winter January 21, 2016

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Dairy Delite in Lakeville, photographed on a frigid Saturday afternoon.

Dairy Delite in Lakeville, photographed on a frigid Saturday afternoon in January.

IF I WAS TO CONDUCT a survey on Minnesotans’ consumption of ice cream, I expect the numbers would plummet in months like January and soar during the hot days of July. Makes sense considering the temperature.

My desire for ice cream drops considerably in winter. I’m cold enough without feeding more cold into my body. But not always.

Just the other night I craved not ice cream, but fro yo. I remember when my eldest daughter first mentioned fro yo probably five-plus years ago. The frozen treat was just trending in southern Minnesota. I had no idea what she was talking about. Eventually fro yo reached Faribault with the opening of Berry Blast in 2013. The business recently closed. I never got there.

In Faribault, Dairy Queen reigns with two shops within a short distance of one another. I like Dairy Queen. But if I get a treat there once a year, that’s about it. And then it’s only if I have a coupon to discount the high prices.

I’ve never been a chain restaurant fan. I much prefer locally-grown businesses with character, uniqueness and charm. Like the Dairy Delite, recently photographed in Lakeville. It’s closed for the season, has been since October, and will reopen in April.

I wish we had a quaint stand-alone nostalgic ice cream place like Dairy Delite in Faribault. Visitors look for such signature sites to purchase treats in the heat of a humid summer day. Locals appreciate these mom-and-pop ice cream shops, too. Here’s a thought—combine an ice cream place with promotion of the Tilt-A-Whirl, an Americana amusement ride which originated in Faribault. Just dreamin’ here in the midst of winter…

Tell me about your favorite original ice cream shop.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

It’s ice cream season in Minnesota April 7, 2014

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Long lines formed to the two serving windows at Blast Softserve, 206 West Rose St., Owatonna.

Long lines form to the two serving windows at Blast Softserve, 206 West Rose St., Owatonna.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON AND THE LINES at Blast Softserve in Owatonna stretch sometimes 15 deep.

Lots of dogs waiting in line with their owners.

Lots of dogs waiting with their owners. Some of the canines got ice cream, too.

Families and couples and teens and dogs (yes, canines, too), all waiting for ice cream treats. No one complaining. No one seemingly in a hurry. Not even me, Ms. Impatience.

A peach pie flurry.

A peach pie flurry.

But after this Winter of Our Discontent—the winter that has blasted us with too much cold and too much snow—I am delighting in the 64-degree weather. No snow, although I order a peach pie flurry. Winter still on the brain, apparently.

Taking an order at the outdoor service window.

Taking an order at the outdoor service window.

I am still dressed in warm threads, too, a flannel shirt, while some here are baring their winter white arms and legs.

So many choices...including grasshopper treats.

So many choices…including grasshopper treats.

The mood is jovial. My husband jokes with a boy, about nine, that getting grasshoppers for a grasshopper treat may be difficult given they are out of season.

His father, quick with the wit, shoots back: “Maybe they bring them (the grasshoppers) in from South America.”

And they all laugh.

The building that houses the ice cream shop and a pizza place. Lots of loitering going on down the sidewalk and to the right at the walk-up ice cream window order area and  patio.

The building that houses the ice cream shop and Rose Street Pizzeria. Lots of loitering going on down the sidewalk to the right at the walk-up ice cream window order area and patio.

You can’t help but feel happy here at this hometown ice cream shop.

Lots of kids lining up for ice cream treats.

Lots of kids lining up for ice cream treats.

Sun and clouds. Kids and dogs. Shirt sleeves and shorts.

Kitschy ice cream art.

Kitschy signage.

Bikes parked in the bike rack. Stenciled letters. Kitschy art.

Just in case...

Just in case…

A bell to ring.

A blueberry sundae.

A blueberry sundae.

Dripping ice cream cones. A mother wiping chocolate ice cream from her son’s face. Temporary brain freeze.

Stenciled on the roof overhang above the serving windows.

Stenciled on the roof overhang above the serving windows.

Life is good on a Sunday afternoon in April in southern Minnesota.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling