SHERIDAN — With the winter doldrums nearing an end, more people will enjoy the climbing temperatures and extended sunlight by spending time outdoors. With those climate changes often comes the desire for a cold scoop of ice cream.
Most local fast food restaurants offer a few ice cream options, but their dairy delectables are merely part of a large menu. The ice cream stand in Kendrick Park is massively popular, but it’s only open for about three and a half months. So how do smaller businesses that offer ice cream year-round make it through the darker, colder months and maximize the sizzling summer heat?
Dairy Queen general manager Karissa Blum said the seemingly endless winter didn’t affect the bottom line much compared to years past, with about 3 percent less sales this year. She said ice cream sales pick up around the start of April and the past weekend resulted in a spike in business, with warm weather increasing local ice cream appetites.
May is Dairy Queen’s busiest month because it is usually the first month of the calendar year with consistently warm weather. There are also a lot of birthdays and graduation parties, so people purchase larger quantities of cakes, treats and ice cream. The Snickers Big Horn Soccer Cup in May brings plenty of business as well.
“People get spring fever and that’s when sales kind of just skyrocket,” Blum said.
Powder River Pizza sells ice cream in its restaurant all year but is less prone to surges and drop offs in business caused by weather. Managing partner Mike Browne said sales for the restaurant’s eight types of ice cream are pretty consistent throughout the year because the ice cream is offered indoors.
Summer is slightly busier but doesn’t make a significant impact, as Browne said ice cream makes up a small percentage of the restaurant’s total sales. Powder River Pizza has eight three-gallon tubs of ice cream on display and some backup in the freezer, so Browne only orders a shipment every two months from Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream, based in Billings, Montana.
Blum and Browne both mentioned the Kendrick Park ice cream stand — which usually opens in mid-May and closes in early September — as a competitor in the summer months because of its easy accessibility. Bliss Yogurt attracts ice cream customers to the south part of Sheridan by letting customers create their own concoctions, as does the new Common Cents convenience store on the north end of town.
In the summer months, many people stop by Dairy Queen after dinner for a Blizzard or cone. To take advantage of that, the restaurant closes one hour later in the summer — 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends.
Numerous outdoor summer events also lead to increased sales.
“The community is a big reflection on business,” Blum said.
Dairy Queen ice cream sales remain high from June through August then start to decline around September or October and fall off during colder months.
“For the most part, if you drive by Dairy Queen during a given time in the summer, it’s going to be lined up,” Blum said.
People haven’t consistently lined up yet to enjoy the ice cream offerings around town, but with summer soon approaching, demand for the chilled dessert will surely rise.