MOORHEAD — If this reads like an advertisement, so be it. Some things are just too important to leave to chance.
Attention, world: The Moorhead Tastee Freez is open for business. We must support it. We cannot leave to happenstance the possibility that this little jewel will not remain financially viable.
Newbie co-owners Jessica Verdi of Fargo and Jessica Malvin of Dilworth were there on a chilly, damp Wednesday morning, readying the old ice cream stand for whatever business might come. A small space heater glowed on the tile floor in the back of the shop, in front of a couple of small walk-in freezers.
In a couple of months, it'll probably be so warm in that same space the high-school-aged workers dishing up twist cones, peanut parfaits, Bonnie bars and Big T burgers will probably want to actually walk in the freezers. It's that kind of place. But that's a story for another day.
You need to know you can get to the Tastee Freez despite the massive underpass construction project happening right out front. Attack the detours. Don't be afraid of the orange cones. Don't be scared off by the tall cranes and piles of dirt. Don't let the beep-beep-beep of large road construction equipment make you turn around.
"We're still here. We're still open," Jessica Malvin said. "Don't forget about us."
This column needed to be written because it might be a tougher summer than usual for this Moorhead icon, tucked at an awkward intersection of Main Ave, Fourth Avenue South and 19th Street Street near Minnesota State University Moorhead, railroad tracks and a couple of mobile home parks. While Moorhead's world-famous Dairy Queen at Eighth Street and Main Avenue — the Dilly Bar was invented there — gets the bulk of the love and attention from the local media, this Tastee Freez has been chugging along quietly for 56 years since it opened in 1963.
Like, really quietly.
"That's OK. We kind of see ourselves as a hidden gem," Verdi said.
This year and next, the emphasis will be on "hidden." Because of construction on the 20th/21st Street railroad underpass that began last fall, pretty much every street that brings traffic to the Tastee Freez is closed.
Main Avenue from the east and 21st Street from the north and south: closed.
And the traffic traveling on Main Avenue from the west is detoured because the road closed right in front of the Tastee Freez.
Soon, Fourth Avenue will also be closed for a few months as the street is re-routed for safety.
It's a treat heaven on an island.
"We even used to have people stop in because they couldn't cross the tracks when a train was going past. They'd say, 'Let's get a treat while we wait for the train to pass,' " Malvin said. "We don't have that anymore. The construction workers have been really good. They'll call in their orders from their bulldozers or cranes, but it's been a little different once they started digging and closed the roads."
Do not be dissuaded, fellow twist-cone connoisseurs.
If you're driving east on Main Avenue, just ignore the signs and arrows and keep going. Cones will lead you right to the Tastee Freez. Or you could come in the back way, taking 19th Street from the south either from 20th Street, Fifth Avenue or Sixth Avenue.
The extra smidgen of hassle is worth it. But you know that already, if you've been to the Tastee Freez.
It's the only one left in Fargo-Moorhead and one of the few left in the region, a throwback of simplicity to a different era. It's a mom-and-pop joint, friendly and affordable. The type of place neighborhood kids ride their bikes to. And, just like the Dairy Queen down the street, it's walk-up only.
This will be Malvin's and Verdi's second summer as co-owners. They bought it from Duane Elofson, who'd run it since 1991. Elofson still drops by to help the women when they need a hand or are short-staffed.
It's a full-circle thing for Malvin and Verdi. Both began working at the Tastee Freez as high schoolers (Malvin went to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton and Verdi to Moorhead) and never stopped. This will be Verdi's 21st year working there and Malvin's 18th. They knew the construction project was coming and were prepared for the challenges. They said the city of Moorhead has communicated well with them and done whatever it can to help.
But, reality is reality. The road construction is going to make things tough.
Their long-term goal is to update the building — new electrical wiring and insulation would be nice, they said — and perhaps expand a little.
"But not too much," Malvin said. "This is one of only four original Tastee Freez buildings left in the country, and we don't want to lose that."
"But we need to fix some of the boo-boos," Verdi said.
You, dear readers, can do your part. Frequent the Moorhead Tastee Freez in spite of the challenge of getting there. Many already are.
"We're doing fine. Actually, the weather so far this spring has probably been the bigger challenge," Malvin said. "But we know that as it gets warmer and more people are looking for ice cream, it might seem like they can't get here. They can. It might just be a little harder."