Memorial Day weekend in 2020 looked a little different across the state as pools remained closed and big gatherings to revel in the 3-day weekend were postponed indefinitely.
But the weekend didn’t look too different at the Deersville General Store in Harrison County, where a steady stream of customers stopped by the old building with black awnings along Main Street. The main attraction? Butterkrunch ice cream, voted best in the state in an unscientific Ohio Farm Bureau Facebook poll last summer.
Business was so swift over the holiday weekend that the signature flavor was gone by Monday afternoon.
“I made 267 gallons for the weekend,” said Kurt Peters, shaking his head. It wasn’t enough. “I need more storage space — another freezer or two before the 4th of July.”
Despite allowing only 26 people in the store at a time, and donning face masks, it was business mostly as usual for the staff at the store. It stayed that way despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to Laura Peters, who owns the store with her husband, Kurt, who makes all the ice cream in the back of the store. One of the few pleasures families were able to indulge in the first few months of Ohio’s stay-at-home order was a stop at the neighborhood ice cream parlor. At this store in eastern Ohio, it’s tradition, whether there is a pandemic or not.
The Peters are Harrison County Farm Bureau members and their store is nestled in the village of Deersville, population 79, in the Tappan Lake region.
The location is now known for its regionally famous butterkrunch homemade ice cream, but it has been in continuous operation as a retail outlet since 1898. The building is on the National Register of Historic places. Safe to say, Deersville General Store has been a focal point in town for generations.
Laura, who grew up on a dairy farm, started working at the store in 2015. At that time the store was starting an “upswing” after a time of struggle and she wanted to contribute, she said.
“I’m a teacher and I have my summers free, so I thought I could help out,” she said. “I always looked forward to coming here.”
When the owners at the time, who lived in Tennessee, wanted to sell, the Peters approached them about purchasing the business. The purchase was finalized in 2018. Laura and Kurt also happen to live in the house next door to the store.
It’s Kurt who is always coming up with new flavors, Laura said. Lemonade is a new favorite this year, and a Buckeyekrunch is featured by the Buckeye Trail Association. Besides the iconic butterkrunch, other favorites are black raspberry, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and chocolate peanut butter.
“We’re starting our third summer here,” Laura said, who admitted they didn’t know how business would go when COVID-19 hit in March and shut down small businesses across the state and nation. Deersville General Store was bracing for impact, but Laura said they didn’t miss a beat.
“We’re very thankful,” she said. “We’re proud of the fact that you come here as a customer and leave as a friend.”
That was evident on Memorial Day, as more than one customer greeted Laura by name and she did the same.
Besides ice cream, the store is a mini-grocery market of sorts, and also sells gas — diesel and unleaded — from an old-fashioned gas pump by the front door. Freezers with bags of ice for campers line the outside front of the store, while hot foods are also offered inside. Memorial Day happened to be brisket day — done in a smoker out back.
Laura said rainy days can be laid back, but sunny days in the summer are when the place really comes alive.
“It’s fun to be hoppin,” she said. “It’s grown and sales have gone up, but it’s not our store, it’s Deersville’s store.”
The top 5 best places for ice cream in the state, according to Ohio Farm Bureau’s 2019 Facebook poll were:
- Deersville (Deersville, OH)
- Graeter’s (headquartered Cincinnati, OH)
- Toft’s (headquartered Sandusky, OH)
- Young’s Dairy (Yellow Springs, OH)
- Riverside (Marion, OH)