Twistees reopens for the season

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

While the weather outside may be still trying to make up its mind, there’s one place in town that always remains frozen no matter what temperature the thermometer reads.

Downtown Dowagiac’s Twistees ice cream parlor is once again open for the season — its 35th season, to be exact.

Located next door to Dowagiac City Hall on Front Street, the walk-up business will be serving its selection of ice cream cones, sundaes, milkshakes and other delicious treats to customers, with spring hours set from noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Owner Nancy Shufelt and her daughter Karla officially opened the business for the 2016 season on St. Patrick’s Day, when they usually try to reopen by, Shufelt said.

The ice cream parlor has been in the family since her parents, William and Gladys Geminder, purchased the building back in 1981. Once the home of a Dairy Queen and the Dowagiac Dairy Barn, the family matriarch decided to keep the location as place for locals to enjoy cold and sweet ice cream on a warm summer day, Shufelt said.

“It was something she always wanted to do,” Shufelt said.

The Niles woman took over ownership of Twistees from her parents in 1986, mainly at the behest of her son, David Jr., who worked with his grandparents at the stand. Over the years, Karla and her sister Carrie have come on board, with the former still operating the stand alongside with her mother today.

Being around for nearly four decades, Nancy, Karla and the many employees they have worked alongside in the tiny shop have served countless cones and bowls to customers in the spring, summer and fall, with their peak months of business falling April through July, Shufelt said. Twistees is a popular destination for residents of Dowagiac and Sister Lakes, leaving employees with little room to relax during peak hours.

“You’ll be working on a sundae for a customer only to turn around and see you have a line outside,” Karla said.

Twistees offers a variety soft serve ice cream, including classics like cones, banana splits and milkshakes. In addition, Nancy and Karla have devised several unique offerings for customers, including such as the S’more Bar, an ice cream and marshmallow treat that is sandwiched between two large graham crackers, then triple dipped in chocolate.

The store doesn’t just serve two-legged customers, but four-legged ones as well, with its “doggy sundae,” a bowl of vanilla ice cream and dog bone that is popular among local canines with a sweet tooth.

“We have one customer who tells us that her dog always whines whenever they walk by the shop during the winter,” Karla said.

On top of their frozen desserts, the stand has long served savory dishes such as hotdogs. In 2010, the staff introduced deep fried items to the menu as well, including chicken fingers, French fries and other finger food.

One of the things that makes the local parlor stand out is the staff’s dedication to customers — whether it is accepting custom orders for items not currently on the menu or staying open just a bit later for lakefront customers who call ahead, saying they’ll be coming into town just a little after regular closing hours. Nancy and Karla said they treat their patrons like family.

“Our customers are pretty awesome people,” Karla said. “We’re very thankful for them.”

Twistees will extend their hours from noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 2 p.m. Sunday during the summer.

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