Archive for Wednesday, February 16, 2000

Competition licks ice cream parlor

February 16, 2000

The Ice Cream Parlor closed its doors last week, a sign of the growing pains that small towns sometimes face when big businesses start eyeing them.

When Jess and Diana Smith opened the Ice Cream Parlor in March 1990, they built the business from the ground up.

"It had been closed for a year and a half," Jess Smith said. "The townspeople treated us right. For 10 years they ate with us."

That business remained strong enough to keep going until recently.

"Sonic's opening hurt," Smith said. "I could sit here and give you 1,400 other excuses, but if they'd have stayed out of town, I'd still be in business."

The timing of the December opening of Sonic made it all the worse, Smith said.

"It was a struggle through any winter," he said. "It always slowed down through the winter months, but it all but shut off this winter."

Smith said he had expected Sonic would cut into business.

"But I didn't think it would do the damage so quick," he said. "You always have the newness part of it when everybody wants to experience what's new in town we had that happen, too."

He said that another reason for closing up shop was that he had heard a Dairy Queen was moving into the area.

Jerry Potter, Lawrence, owner of the two Dairy Queens in Lawrence, said he is, in fact, hoping to build a restaurant in Tonganoxie.

"If I can buy some property," Potter said. "I've been trying since November.

Potter is looking for two acres along U.S. 24-40 Highway.

"I've been working on a couple of pieces of property, but every time somebody finds out Dairy Queen's going in, the prices goes up about $25,000 or $30,000," he said. "I can only afford to pay so much money for land because I'll have at least $500,000 to $600,000 in a building."

Potter, who has owned Dairy Queens for 25 years, first in Kansas City, Kan., and for the last 20 years in Lawrence, said he is particularly interested in a restaurant in Tonganoxie.

"My roots are there," he said. "I went to Wyandotte High School and my son lives in Basehor. All the people I grew up with have moved west to Tonganoxie and my father-in-law, Paul Gable, was from Tonganoxie."

He hopes something will work out either on a tract that is east of the new Holst Pharmacy property or a site in the Urban Hess district.

As for Jess Smith and the Ice Cream Parlor, the building is for sale. "We're going to close this chapter of our life and move on to something else," Smith said. "It's been a good 10-year run for us and, as they say, all good things must come to an end."

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