Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 14/3/2015 (922 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Velvet Dip, one of Brandon’s nostalgic beacons of summer, has swung open its windows for the 50th spring.
Ownership of the walk-up ice cream shack on Victoria Avenue has changed a few times, but the building itself has remained much the same since Bruce Ferguson had it built in 1965.
It celebrated its grand opening with one-cent cones, but nickel cones were a menu staple and the most expensive item, a banana split, would have set you back a whopping 75 cents.
"How we thought we’d ever make money on a nickel cone I’ll never know," said Bruce’s wife, Donna Hansen, who still lives in Brandon.
Hansen was the one who came up with the shack’s name, which referred to the special type of "velvet" cream they got shipped in from the Neepawa Creamery.
When the couple decided to open up shop — to supplement Bruce’s job as sales manager at CKX and owner of the Rambler Hotel — there was nothing on that city block aside from a unused short-haul rail track.
<t-4>"We always envisioned it to be for the family," said Donna, who worked at least every Sunday and on busy days before the couple sold the business in 1978 to Joe and Mary Lou Michalchyshyn when Bruce
Local bands would perform on the roof of the summer haven — one being Burton Cummings, Donna said. A photo of a band circulated online over the last few days believed to be Cummings himself has been disputed by local musicians very familiar with the history of Cummings and the Guess Who.
The photo originated from old CKX negatives and posted online by local musician Bill Hillman.
Nonetheless, bands from Winnipeg and Saskatchewan did play there and current owners Sam Oke and Jackie Kamann-Oke have received two offers from bands wanting to put on a show this summer.
The couple haven’t made any firm plans yet as to how they’re going to mark the Velvet Dip’s golden anniversary. For now, the two medical professionals have been busy getting the shop up and running after its annual six-month dormancy. Getting the machines working and making a supply of the on-site-made specialty treats takes a hectic 10 days.
The two purchased the business from Jackie’s parents, Dale Kamann (a service manager with Chrysler) and wife Ann in 2005, but Jackie has been a part of the business for more than 30 years, since her parents acquired it in 1983.
It was at that time Jackie said the fate of the ice cream shop was in question after a soon-to-be opened grocery store — now the Real Canadian Superstore — rallied to get the ice cream shop moved for two seasons.
But Dale Kamann was stubborn.
"He said ‘no, forget it,’" Jackie said.
Since then, the 50-year-old building has stood its ground while decades of development has grown around it.
"I think if people like the product and have good service, they’re going to come back," Jackie said. "We really enjoy the opportunity to help teach young adults good work ethic, and to help foster good teamwork amongst different age groups."
"It’s all about your staff. If you have a good group, it makes things so much easier."
Once the Neepawa Creamery shuttered, Parmalat continued to make the special namesake cream for the Velvet Dip and one other shop in Thunder Bay, Ont. However, that only lasted for a few seasons until the late 2000s when the Toronto-based dairy producer stopped production on the "velvet" cream entirely.