Summers in Rockford are arguably some of the most miserable in Americawith high temperatures mixed with heavy humidity. There are many ways to fight off the unbearable weather, but Ive found the best way is to sit very still and concentrate on something coollike ice cream. Who doesnt like the stuff? And at the Dairy Depot on 5413 N. Second St., Loves Park, patrons can enjoy a breeze blowing through the parking lot/patio at umbrella-covered tables and not only think about, but also sample a wide variety of ice cream flavors and concoctions.
OK, so they use commercial ice cream(Roni Oat)but who doesnt anymore? The point is that while using the soft serve stuff that comes in big tubs from ice cream factories (do those exist?), the staff at the Dairy Depot mix in a lot of great flavorings that include anything from fresh fruit to pulverized candy. I actually got a black cherry shake, and was pleasantly surprised to watch as the owner, John Elliot, poured actual berries into the cup with ice cream and blended the mixture into a smooth, refreshing shake. My companion for the venture, former Rock River Times ad rep Peter Heidenreich, ordered a butterscotch sundae. We took our frozen cups to the little patio area that used to be a parking lot, and mused on the varieties of ice cream concoctions one could invent. Unfortunately, the Dairy Depot seems to have already invented most of them. They offer shakes and malts of every flavor I thought possible, including a banana maltwhich Ive been informed is actually quite good.
The best part of owning your own business is that you can cajole your family members into working for you. A photograph on the front counter portrays all the employees of the Dairy Depot decked out in spotted cow get-ups, and the relation between them is obvious. The girls are 6 foot something blondes with healthy, sun tanned skin, and all the men are cheerful, ice cream dishing guys. Elliot has his wife, Diane, and nieces, Amanda and Andrea Carlson, to work the stand. The Dairy Depot was opened and built in 1986 by Norm Gerth, whose grandson Brian Huff still works there today. Under Elliots ownership, The Dairy Depot has enjoyed its third season open, and with the support of the community, will hopefully enjoy many more years of ice-cream serving.
Open between Memorial Day and Labor Day, rain or shinebut not in lightning stormsthe Dairy Depot is guaranteed to please a hot customer on a summers day. Ice cream flavors include vanilla, chocolate and a weekly flavor that rotates strawberry, dreamsickle, lemon custard, white chocolate and black cherry. You can get a flurry with banana, brownie, butterfinger, cherry cheesecake, M & Ms, Heath Bar and many other flavors too extensive to list. The Dairy Depot also offers slushes, cake cones, sugar cones, waffle cones, turtle sundaes, malts, banana splits and smoothies.
Because The Dairy Depot is technically a stand instead of a store, although one couldnt tell by looking at it, they dont have a phone number. They are open every day from 1-9:30 p.m., although when I showed up at 9:29 p.m., Elliot was still more than happy to serve me. But I wouldnt make a practice of that since the other employees looked righteously disgruntled.