It arrived almost 50 years ago, offering 31 flavors and becoming a hot spot for first dates, first jobs and a fast stop after a visit to nearby Lake Air Mall, now only a memory replaced by a Target store.
The Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop in a small retail center called Lake Air East, at Wooded Acres Drive at Bosque Boulevard, has relocated to a long-vacant former restaurant in the neighborhood, at 1616 Wooded Acres Drive. The 2,000-square-foot location is now open, sporting the Baskin-Robbins color scheme and double the dining and serving space of Baskin-Robbins’ old location.
Franchisee Priscilla Dyer said she paid $160,000 for the vacant structure more than a year ago and started renovations in September. The shop also features a party room and soon will add a drive-thru lane, Dyer said.
“I bought the place about nine years ago, and I have seen a 70 percent increase in sales since I purchased it,” Dyer said of the franchise. “I’ve been very pleased. The local economy has improved, and I’ve grown to have one of the top producing stores in the Baskin-Robbins system, among the top two in Texas.”
The ice cream, shakes, warm cookie sandwiches and cakes have not lost their appeal, and she also benefits from the shop’s iconic history and the nostalgia it generates among longtime Waco residents and customers, she said.
With a larger shop, she now can seat 25 in the main dining area and 16 in the party room. Longtime customers know that for years the shop only had a handful of chairs.
“There was barely room to turn around,” Dyer said with a laugh.
This time of year, about a thousand customers will walk through the doors of Baskin-Robbins weekly, and traffic will double come summer, she said. Plus, the new store is already bringing more customers.
“I’m already noticing an increase in business due to our new location,” Dyer said. “To be honest, I don’t have a lot of competition. This is a fairly good-sized city, and I’m located in a sweet spot. This is a nostalgic place for Waco, almost like a local landmark, and that’s to my advantage.”
Dyer said she is often asked why she does not open a second location, and her reply is simple. She has only one Isabella Simpson, her manager.
“There is no way I would be as successful as I am without her,” she said.
The store typically has had 12 to 14 employees in the summer but will need closer to 16 this year, Dyer said.
Baskin-Robbins long has advertised its 31 flavors, but no shop actually stocks that exact number. All locations have even-numbered serving areas, with the typical shop offering 24 or 32 flavors, she said.
“That number was advertised because Baskin-Robbins wanted to make the point you could try a new flavor every day of the month,” Dyer said. “We carry 40 flavors because we’re a larger operation than most.”
Her most popular ice cream flavor? “Excluding chocolate and vanilla, oreo cookies and cream, without a doubt. It also makes a popular cake.”
Dunkin’ Donuts recently announced it would open a combination Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins location on Hewitt Drive.
That does not faze Dyer.
“They will be in Hewitt. I’ll be over here,” she said.
The 1,200-square-foot space she leaves behind will be filled by a small business that will sell customized firearms and offer engraving.