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Rites of spring in Moorhead as Tastee Freez, Dairy Queen wake from winter

MOORHEAD - Sure, the high temperature today isn't expected to get above freezing thanks to the weekend Arctic blast, but Duane Elofson has a feeling he'll sell plenty of frozen treats.

Though still boarded up Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, Tastee Freez in south Moorhead will open Tuesday. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Though still boarded up Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, Tastee Freez in south Moorhead will open Tuesday. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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MOORHEAD – Sure, the high temperature today isn't expected to get above freezing thanks to the weekend Arctic blast, but Duane Elofson has a feeling he'll sell plenty of frozen treats. "It's spring. They want spring to get here," he said. "When I open, my customers tell me the same thing. 'It's just a sign of spring. You're open. It's great.' They're looking forward to it. It makes them happy." Elofson and his business partner, Fern Elofson, have owned the Tastee Freez stand near the corner of Main Avenue and 19th Street South for 26 years. They're maybe the fifth owners since the place opened in 1963. Unless the temperature falls below zero or there's a blizzard, he tries to open every year on March 1 after closing in October, Elofson said. March 1 is also when the downtown Dairy Queen traditionally opens.

Though still boarded up Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, Tastee Freez in south Moorhead will open Tuesday. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Though still boarded up Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, Tastee Freez in south Moorhead will open Tuesday. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Tastee Freez's crosstown rival is better known and is in a more visible location in the heart of the city's central business district. When Dairy Queen opens, it often gets a lot of attention from news media. But Elofson said he's found his own following over the years from among workers in nearby industrial areas and students from the high school and from Minnesota State University Moorhead. He said he reckons he's onto the third generation of customers. "A lot of customers I used to see, the majority were older folks, 30 and older," he said. "Today, I get a lot of college kids, a lot of kids, because it's nostalgia." Waking from slumber On Monday, plywood boards still covered the windows at the Tastee Freez stand. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2353537","attributes":{"alt":"Tastee Freez Manager Jessica Verdi prepares to hand dip an ice cream treat Monday, Feb. 29, 2016.","class":"media-image","height":"480","title":"Tastee Freez Manager Jessica Verdi prepares to hand dip an ice cream treat Monday, Feb. 29, 2016.","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"402"}}]] Inside, Elofson and Jessica Verdi, the manager and senior-most employee, were busy waking the restaurant from its winter slumber. A Coca-Cola repairman had just spent a few hours fixing what appeared to be a burst pipe. Delivery drivers were dropping off boxes. And Verdi was dipping one ice cream bar after another. Enofson said he'll open at 11 a.m. today. Thanks to an earlier warm spell, this year's opening is probably only the second opening he's had without snow on the ground, he said. In years past, Verdi said it's been cold enough that people will come to the window to order and rush back to their car. She said she or some other employee would wave at them when their order was ready. Despite the name, Tastee Freez sells a lot of hot-lunch sandwiches, such as sloppy Joes, burgers and hot dogs, and Elofson said he expects most of the frozen treats will be ordered with lunch. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"2353522","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"778","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"1200"}}]] His own following A stand like Elofson's has become a rarity among Tastee Freez franchises, he said. The only other one he knows of is in Virginia. Many stands have died out as their owners retired, he said, and, today, most franchisees like to be in a fully enclosed restaurant that features other related brands. But he likes the flexibility that owners of stands get to start their own product lines outside of franchise-approved products. One of Elofson's inspirations is actually Dairy Queen. He said he visits during the off season to see what's selling and offer something similar at his stand if he likes it. If he doesn't, he said, he's not stuck selling a loser. Elofson admitted that he has felt the pangs of envy seeing how much free publicity his rival would get every spring. "WDAY would come out with the cameras and line up the people. People would come just to be in the photo," he said. "I used to be envious," he said, "but then I realized – how come I'm so busy. I didn't advertise. I didn't – other than putting a thing in the board – and I'm smoking busy." His customers, as it turns out are die-hards, he said, and when they see the other guys open, they're reminded that he's open. Nowadays, he's at peace with the attention Dairy Queen gets, Elofson said. MOORHEAD – Sure, the high temperature today isn't expected to get above freezing thanks to the weekend Arctic blast, but Duane Elofson has a feeling he'll sell plenty of frozen treats. "It's spring. They want spring to get here," he said. "When I open, my customers tell me the same thing. 'It's just a sign of spring. You're open. It's great.' They're looking forward to it. It makes them happy." Elofson and his business partner, Fern Elofson, have owned the Tastee Freez stand near the corner of Main Avenue and 19th Street South for 26 years. They're maybe the fifth owners since the place opened in 1963. Unless the temperature falls below zero or there's a blizzard, he tries to open every year on March 1 after closing in October, Elofson said. March 1 is also when the downtown Dairy Queen traditionally opens. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2353521","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"480","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"409"}}]] Tastee Freez's crosstown rival is better known and is in a more visible location in the heart of the city's central business district. When Dairy Queen opens, it often gets a lot of attention from news media. But Elofson said he's found his own following over the years from among workers in nearby industrial areas and students from the high school and from Minnesota State University Moorhead. He said he reckons he's onto the third generation of customers. "A lot of customers I used to see, the majority were older folks, 30 and older," he said. "Today, I get a lot of college kids, a lot of kids, because it's nostalgia." Waking from slumber On Monday, plywood boards still covered the windows at the Tastee Freez stand.

Though still boarded up Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, Tastee Freez in south Moorhead will open Tuesday. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Though still boarded up Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, Tastee Freez in south Moorhead will open Tuesday. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Inside, Elofson and Jessica Verdi, the manager and senior-most employee, were busy waking the restaurant from its winter slumber. A Coca-Cola repairman had just spent a few hours fixing what appeared to be a burst pipe. Delivery drivers were dropping off boxes. And Verdi was dipping one ice cream bar after another. Enofson said he'll open at 11 a.m. today. Thanks to an earlier warm spell, this year's opening is probably only the second opening he's had without snow on the ground, he said. In years past, Verdi said it's been cold enough that people will come to the window to order and rush back to their car. She said she or some other employee would wave at them when their order was ready. Despite the name, Tastee Freez sells a lot of hot-lunch sandwiches, such as sloppy Joes, burgers and hot dogs, and Elofson said he expects most of the frozen treats will be ordered with lunch. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"2353522","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"778","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"1200"}}]] His own following A stand like Elofson's has become a rarity among Tastee Freez franchises, he said. The only other one he knows of is in Virginia. Many stands have died out as their owners retired, he said, and, today, most franchisees like to be in a fully enclosed restaurant that features other related brands. But he likes the flexibility that owners of stands get to start their own product lines outside of franchise-approved products. One of Elofson's inspirations is actually Dairy Queen. He said he visits during the off season to see what's selling and offer something similar at his stand if he likes it. If he doesn't, he said, he's not stuck selling a loser. Elofson admitted that he has felt the pangs of envy seeing how much free publicity his rival would get every spring. "WDAY would come out with the cameras and line up the people. People would come just to be in the photo," he said. "I used to be envious," he said, "but then I realized – how come I'm so busy. I didn't advertise. I didn't – other than putting a thing in the board – and I'm smoking busy." His customers, as it turns out are die-hards, he said, and when they see the other guys open, they're reminded that he's open. Nowadays, he's at peace with the attention Dairy Queen gets, Elofson said. MOORHEAD – Sure, the high temperature today isn't expected to get above freezing thanks to the weekend Arctic blast, but Duane Elofson has a feeling he'll sell plenty of frozen treats. "It's spring. They want spring to get here," he said. "When I open, my customers tell me the same thing. 'It's just a sign of spring. You're open. It's great.' They're looking forward to it. It makes them happy." Elofson and his business partner, Fern Elofson, have owned the Tastee Freez stand near the corner of Main Avenue and 19th Street South for 26 years. They're maybe the fifth owners since the place opened in 1963. Unless the temperature falls below zero or there's a blizzard, he tries to open every year on March 1 after closing in October, Elofson said. March 1 is also when the downtown Dairy Queen traditionally opens. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2353521","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"480","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"409"}}]] Tastee Freez's crosstown rival is better known and is in a more visible location in the heart of the city's central business district. When Dairy Queen opens, it often gets a lot of attention from news media. But Elofson said he's found his own following over the years from among workers in nearby industrial areas and students from the high school and from Minnesota State University Moorhead. He said he reckons he's onto the third generation of customers. "A lot of customers I used to see, the majority were older folks, 30 and older," he said. "Today, I get a lot of college kids, a lot of kids, because it's nostalgia." Waking from slumber On Monday, plywood boards still covered the windows at the Tastee Freez stand. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2353537","attributes":{"alt":"Tastee Freez Manager Jessica Verdi prepares to hand dip an ice cream treat Monday, Feb. 29, 2016.","class":"media-image","height":"480","title":"Tastee Freez Manager Jessica Verdi prepares to hand dip an ice cream treat Monday, Feb. 29, 2016.","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"402"}}]] Inside, Elofson and Jessica Verdi, the manager and senior-most employee, were busy waking the restaurant from its winter slumber. A Coca-Cola repairman had just spent a few hours fixing what appeared to be a burst pipe. Delivery drivers were dropping off boxes. And Verdi was dipping one ice cream bar after another. Enofson said he'll open at 11 a.m. today. Thanks to an earlier warm spell, this year's opening is probably only the second opening he's had without snow on the ground, he said. In years past, Verdi said it's been cold enough that people will come to the window to order and rush back to their car. She said she or some other employee would wave at them when their order was ready. Despite the name, Tastee Freez sells a lot of hot-lunch sandwiches, such as sloppy Joes, burgers and hot dogs, and Elofson said he expects most of the frozen treats will be ordered with lunch.

Though still boarded up Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, Tastee Freez in south Moorhead will open Tuesday. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Though still boarded up Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, Tastee Freez in south Moorhead will open Tuesday. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

His own following A stand like Elofson's has become a rarity among Tastee Freez franchises, he said. The only other one he knows of is in Virginia. Many stands have died out as their owners retired, he said, and, today, most franchisees like to be in a fully enclosed restaurant that features other related brands. But he likes the flexibility that owners of stands get to start their own product lines outside of franchise-approved products. One of Elofson's inspirations is actually Dairy Queen. He said he visits during the off season to see what's selling and offer something similar at his stand if he likes it. If he doesn't, he said, he's not stuck selling a loser. Elofson admitted that he has felt the pangs of envy seeing how much free publicity his rival would get every spring. "WDAY would come out with the cameras and line up the people. People would come just to be in the photo," he said. "I used to be envious," he said, "but then I realized – how come I'm so busy. I didn't advertise. I didn't – other than putting a thing in the board – and I'm smoking busy." His customers, as it turns out are die-hards, he said, and when they see the other guys open, they're reminded that he's open. Nowadays, he's at peace with the attention Dairy Queen gets, Elofson said.

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