Photos by Gary Anderson
Article by Jeremy Benson
A little over 8 years ago, Scot Pirie and his family of ice cream lovers set out to find the ideal ice cream parlor, one that served the creamiest, most flavorful frozen dairy product in a setting that was inviting to him, his wife, and their four children.
"We were always looking for a place to get ice cream," he recalls. In all their searches and taste-tests, they were rarely satisfied. "The places with good atmosphere had bad ice cream, while the places with good ice cream weren't very family-friendly."
Seeing a problem, Pirie jumped on the solution; the Great Lakes Ice Cream Company was born. In May of 2002, the parlor served its first scoops of super premium homemade ice cream.
Since that first season, the company has added lines of dairy-free sorbet and frozen yogurts to their ever-expanding menu of frozen treats, which includes sundaes, floats, shakes and smoothies, alongside its lengthy list of ice cream flavors. Michigan-themed flavors Pictured Rocks, Copper Country, and the Tri-Caramel have been customer favorites season after season.
"Spring Break is really good," says Pirie. The flavor uses a base of chocolate ice cream with coconut mixed in. "We normally only serve it in the springtime, but a lot of people are begging us to keep it year-round."
The store opens for its regular season in March through October, with daily hours of 1PM to 10PM beginning each May through September. However, Scot and the crew keep portions of the operation running throughout the year. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, Great Lakes Ice Cream sells quarts of holiday flavors like cinnamon and eggnog. The company produces cartons for local restaurants, and catering for weddings or school fairs is available. Graduates, retirees, or anyone who really likes ice cream can rent a Great Lakes vending cart for use at parties and open houses.
But gourmet ice cream is not the only reason why a line forms around the porch and up the block every time the thermometer even peeks above 61 degrees, nor is it the only reason why Scot and his family began making ice cream. "I opened the shop so I could talk to people while scooping them ice cream," Pirie says. The store is hidden away in a quiet Midland neighborhood on the corner of Ashman and Washington, blocks from the main retail drag of Ashman Circle and Saginaw Road, which gives it the feeling of a lazy afternoon in the backyard. On a warm Saturday or Sunday, the porch and dining room are likely to be bustling with customers who have arrived via stroller, bicycle, roller blade, or foot, and occasionally those families who have driven miles in search of the perfect ice cream experience.
"We have a business with a porch on it. How many of those are in Midland?" Pirie says, finally satisfied with the ice cream parlor his family has found, one that serves delicious, gourmet ice cream in a family-friendly, neighborly atmosphere.
Great Lakes Ice Cream Company can be found online at greatlakesicecreamcompany.com, and also on Facebook. Check out their May special, 2 root beer floats for $5.
© Jeremy Benson, 2010