Long-Time Rochester Ice Cream Shop Is Flourishing Under New Ownership
Photographer / Lana King
The Flagpole ice cream shop in Rochester has been a community staple since it first opened in 1949. In May 2019, after a brief closure, it reopened under new management. Helen and Tim Durkes took over last year, achieving one of Tim’s long-held dreams of owning an ice cream shop.
Getting it opened was truly a family affair. In the process, they learned that Tim’s father, Jim, wanted to purchase the shop in the late 1960s, but never saw that dream come true. Helen and Brynn Wilson, one of Helen and Tim’s children, both lost their jobs just a few months before The Flagpole reopened. They were able to commit themselves fully to the ice cream shop then, successfully opening it in May.
“When I lost my job, I was unsure of my next steps,” Brynn says. “I was always in food service, so when [my parents] decided to do this, neither one of them had much food experience, so [my coming in] was a natural fit.”
When the Durkes reopened the shop, they decided to try and restore it to the glory it held in the 1970s, the way they remembered it. They kept the same high-quality ice cream recipes and offered customers similar food choices like hot dogs. For their Coney dog specifically, the original Coney sauce recipe from the 1970s takes center stage on an all-beef hot dog.
The hot dogs aren’t the only mouth-watering thing to catch your attention, though. With 15 different flavors of homemade ice cream, there’s something for everybody. Lemon is their most popular flavor, and they have classics like French vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can go for one of the less common flavors, like Red Indian, which is a cinnamon ice cream. You can enjoy your ice cream in a homemade waffle cone, too.
Jim Durkes and Brynn’s husband, Brandon, make all of the ice cream every week. Made on the original ice cream machine from 1949, they make it with 14% butter-fat content and no air is mixed in, which makes the ice cream as smooth and creamy as can be.
The best part of owning The Flagpole, though, Helen and Brynn agree, is serving people. They’ve met people that have traveled for their ice cream from Knox, Warsaw, Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and even as far as Michigan.
“When we opened this, we decided we wanted this place to be the fun place that people can go and enjoy getting ice cream and a hot dog,” Helen says.
You can visit The Flagpole Tuesday and Wednesday from 11:30 am to 7 pm, or Thursday through Saturday from 11:30 am to 8 pm. They are currently closed on Sunday and Monday. You can find the full menu on their Facebook page, @theflagpole1949, and place an order by calling ahead or placing an online order. The link for ordering online is also found on their Facebook page. The Flagpole is located at 514 E 9th Street in Rochester and you can give them a call at 574-223-6218.