In some households opening day at Scooter’s Frozen Custard, 1658 W. Belmont Ave., rivals Opening Day at Wrigley Field. The biggest difference: Scooter’s line-up is loaded with all-stars like Whiskey Caramel and Strawberry Oreo. And it’s way more fun to be Denny and Mardi Moore than it is to be Tom Ricketts.
The Moores opened Scooter’s in 2003, using the same dairy that provided custard to Chicago’s 1933 World’s Fair, which introduced the frozen treat to the Midwest. The couple’s silky smooth product, made from scratch daily, quickly earned a fanatical following that’s wildly loyal…to a point. When the temperature drops, customers become increasingly scarce, leading the Moores to close up shop for three months every winter. Thus begins a long national nightmare.
But as of today, March 2, Scooter’s is back in business. In honor of this momentous occasion, RVJ presents an expanded version of Five Questions with Denny and Mardi Moore.
RVJ: You’ve been closed since December. What have you been up to?
The Moores: Everyone thinks we go to Florida for three months. In reality, we first rest because we are very tired in December. January is the month we have to get away. Most of February is spent getting the store re-opened. We get a break, but it is not quite as glamorous as most people think. But we are not knocking it either.
When Scooter’s is closed, what do you miss the most about the business and what do you most enjoy taking a break from?
We really miss our customers. We truly love going to work and seeing the people we get to know each day who support us. We feel so lucky to have customers who become friends. We are so tired by the end of our season that we really really look forward to a rest.
How much development of new flavors or concretes do you do over break? I know Banana Fudge Overload (layers of hot fudge and banana slices, topped with whipped cream, pecans and a cherry) is new this year. Whose totally awesome idea was that?
We actually try to test things in the fall when we are a bit slower, while we still have real “regulars” who can give us honest feedback. We had a lot of people asking us for Nutella. We finally tried it in November and could not make enough to satisfy everyone. That is why we are opening with it our first week. [Mark your calendar for March 8.] It was soooo popular even in our slow month.
Banana Fudge Overload has been a dream of the Flavormeister [Denny] for a few years. This year, he just pulled the plug and put it on the menu.
This is your 10th opening day. Do you still get nervous/excited? Do you still wonder, “Will they come?”
All of the above. We are always nervous to close and wonder if people will return. Thank goodness, our customers have returned so far. We hope they do this weekend. We have lots of new employees ready and waiting to help them behind the counter. But, we so look forward to seeing everyone again. The power of Facebook and Twitter at least allows us to communicate via computer, but there is nothing like a face-to-face meeting.
What’s your personal favorite flavor/concrete? Do you ever get tired of custard?
We go against the norm of our customers and really love a cone. Frozen custard is so creamy and dense, we love the purity of the product in a simple cone. That being said, we love, love, love our milk shakes and malts.
OK, Mardi loves a Turtle Sundae and Denny leans toward a Peanut Butter Hot Fudge Sundae to soothe a bad day, but with the Banana Fudge Overload, look for him to be snacking on one of those every once in awhile. We both love the Strawberry Concrete. It is so simple and yet so good and I would say neither of us would typically gravitate toward fruit over chocolate and caramel. That’s how good the Strawberry Concrete is. Possibly the best dessert in the universe. Just sayin’.
There is something about frozen custard/ice cream. You do not tire of it. We taste it every day…we make it every day so we need to taste it for quality control. Tough job. Glad it’s ours.
Have you ever thought a flavor you thought would be a big winner but didn’t work out?
We did try Root Beer Custard. It sounds like it would be good, doesn’t it? It was just “OK.” A Root Beer Float is much better. We won’t make Root Beer Custard again.
As business partners and a married couple, how do you separate work from home? How do you divide responsibilities?
Mardi is always right and Denny agrees. Just kidding. We have worked together for so long, work and home blend together, but it works for us. Denny is a bit more analytical. Since losing most of his sight a few years ago, he is a bit more gun shy of crowds and not being able to recognize people, so we always encourage people to tell him who they are. That is why you see Mardi out front a bit more than Denny while he keeps the business side going behind the scenes.
What’s changed since you first opened–what did you expect Scooter’s to be like and what has it become?
The neighborhood has changed and become much nicer. The foot traffic has increased in a good way. That being said, we could never have anticipated and truly enjoy how Scooter’s has become a neighborhood gathering place where neighbors can meet their neighbors. We could never have imagined having such a loyal following and more importantly, so many customers that we look forward to seeing walk through the door each day. We cannot tell you how terrific it is to be able to go to work each day and have your customers make your day better.
We also have been able to watch some of our youngest customers grow into young adults. It is fun to watch and we hope we are around long enough to have them bring their kids into Scooter’s.
We are also very excited that one of our employees has worked his way up to join our management team as a senior manager this year. Ben Osbun is a great new partner to our team to help out on the day-to-day operations of running Scooter’s.
Yours has to be the most kid-friendliest, dog-friendliest, pregnant woman-friendliest business out there. I can’t believe no one’s given birth at Scooter’s or named their kid Scooter.
W did have someone work Scooter’s into their wedding vows last year. Maybe their first child will be born here and they will name him/her “Scooter.” We have so many great stories that I only single that out because we plan to hang their wedding vows on our wall this year.