“I used to own a mortgage company and a pizza place, but now I’m doing soft serve ice cream,” said Mark Adkins, who co-owns Arctic Corner with Sharon Lycos, a former employee at one of his previous ventures. “Sharon always wanted to own an ice cream shop, so when this place became available we jumped on it.”
The place Adkins is referring to is the former Tate’s Freeze, which was the former Tastee Freeze, which has been owned by the Tate family since 1951. Adkins and Lycos lease the building from the Tates, who are still in the picture. (Sean Tate, grandson of the original owner, was there the same day as this writer, but he didn’t have time to chat.) Tate’s Freeze closed five years ago, leaving a summertime void in its passing.
“Ever since we’ve opened, it seems like every customer has been saying, ‘We’re so glad someone reopened this place. We’re so lucky to have you in Old Town,’” Adkins said. “And that’s why we did it. Not only was this building on its way to becoming an eyesore, but there’s no other soft serve ice cream between here and Okemos except for Dairy Queen, and that place is no fun.” [Editor's note: We know he's wrong]
But it wasn’t just a matter of raising the shutter and doling out parfaits — the building needed a major overhaul. Adkins and Lycos added a completely new back room, which included a new cooler, new plumbing, electricity and new machinery. They were also very careful about making sure all the ingredients in every menu item were Michigan-based, from the ice cream itself, which comes from Grand Rapids, to the chili sauce for the Coney dogs, which comes from Jackson.
“And that chili sauce, wow, we’ve easily doubled the amount of Coneys we’re selling since we started using the new one,” Adkins said. “But the first two things a lot of people are asking are, ‘Do we have the lemon ice cream?’ and ‘Is it the same recipe?’”
The answer is yes and yes. Adkins expertly pulled a small cone and proffered it to a skeptical taster. Sure, lemon is good as sorbet or Italian ice, but with cream? Oh sweet heavens, is it ever. The lemon is extremely mild, with just the right amount of creaminess to keep it from getting too tart. Adkins said that lemon outsells chocolate by a factor of 2 to 1, and it’s easy to see why. It could have been the unseasonably hot day or it could be the ice cream’s extreme eat-ablilty, but it sure didn’t last long. A new lemon soft serve convert was born last week.
Arctic Corner offers the usual chocolate and vanilla, as well as strawberry and twist versions of each flavor (Adkins prefers the strawberry-lemon twist.) Of course, banana splits, Boston coolers and turtle sundaes are always popular favorites. Adkins said that later this summer the shop will be rotate in a new flavor every now and then just to keep the throngs guessing. Other changes include a Motorcycle Monday (50 cents off a cone if you ride up) and cross-promotions with other Old Town businesses.
“We’ve got a Doggie Bowl [dish] for dogs, so that people can enjoy their ice cream and share the experience with their dogs,” Adkins said. “No one else does that. It’s been a real fun adventure doing this, and we’ll keep doing it as long as the Tates will let us.”
Arctic Corner, 314 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.