DELANO, MN Linnie’s Ice Cream has closed and its menu will include coffee when it reopens under new ownership and with a new name.
Oct. 17 was Jon and Sheri Steinmetz’s last day operating Linnie’s before selling their building at 100 Bridge Ave. E. to Dave Eidahl.
Following the sale, Jon and Sheri took time to reflect on their time at Linnie’s, and the history of ice cream in Delano.
Jon believes the building is the oldest in Delano, being built in the 1860s.
As early as the 1880s, ice cream was sold from the building, as evidenced by a photo Jon found. In the 1940s, the front of the building was Hunch’s Bar and the back of the building was an ice cream shop. It also housed Lundeen’s Department Store at one point.
Fast-forwarding to about 18 years ago, Jon began renting space for his real estate office, and bought the building nine years ago.
When the recession hit, the Steinmetzes decided they needed to make a change.
“It was September of 2008 and I had no real estate customers,” Jon said. “Nothing was happening. The economy was getting worse. Friends said, ‘Let’s go take jobs in Texas.’ I went there for a bit.”
When Jon returned to Delano in the spring of 2009, he started to look at the building differently.
“It was an asset, but we were looking at it like a liability,” Jon said. “The more I started thinking, the more I thought it’d be nice to have an ice cream shop downtown.”
He said it was inspired by the ice cream shop that he grew up patronizing in Oak Knoll. They decided to name it Linnie’s after their daughter Linnea.
“We named it Linnie’s because she was always really happy,” Jon said.
While working to start Linnie’s, Jon was interviewing for other jobs.
“The day he came home from his fourth interview, we got the freezers ordered,” Sheri said. “Then, he got the job. So, we decided to work afternoons and evenings. When school was out, we had the students who worked for us open it up.”
Over the seven years Linnie’s was in business, 49 different employees worked there.
“We had the nicest kids working for us,” Sheri said.
“We only fired one,” Jon added. “That says a lot about the kids.”
For many of them, Linnie’s was their first job, and they improved their people skills as they went.
“Some started very shy, but by the end, they were personable,” Sheri said.
They never hesitated to pitch in, even if they weren’t working at the time.
“Half the campground from Baker Park showed up. One of the girls worked for us but was camping. She put her purse down and started scooping,” Sheri said. “We’ve had that, where kids were enjoying themselves and would pitch in and start working. We didn’t ask them to do that.”
Jon taught them to be picky about what they gave to customers.
“I said when you make a malt, you have to taste what’s left in the tin. If you don’t like it, don’t give it to someone. When in doubt, throw it out and make it better,” Jon said.
The attention to detail paid off.
“We never had a single health inspection violation and we never had anyone get sick,” Sheri said.
Business at Linnie’s grew over the years.
“Each year, sales were better than the last, except for one,” Sheri said. “It was too hot. It was like 100 degrees and people didn’t have an appetite.”
Linnie’s was open year-round, including during the long, cold winter of 2013. After enduring that snowy season, they decided to close for the winter in 2014, and reopened in May.
“This year, we opened May 1 and closed Oct. 17,” Sheri said. “In that stretch of time, it was the best we ever had.”
That made the decision to sell a little easier.
“When we decided it was time to sell, it’s good to go out on a high note,” Sheri said.
She and Jon are looking forward to having more time off.
“The 15 hour days were killing us,” Jon said. “We’d work 10 hour days, then work at Linnie’s . . . We were at the point that these guys would come in and do a good job, and maybe we could get our lives back.”