There are many rituals folks in New Castle County celebrate to mark the seasons, and perhaps the first agreed-upon sign of spring’s approach is the opening of the Dairy Palace each March. At press time, more than 1,200 people on Facebook had shared posted news about opening day. As Dairy Palace welcomed its soft serve customers of the season (two days later than planned, but nearly two weeks sooner than in previous years), owner Joy Parker took a few minutes to give us a peek into this beloved family business.
Town Square Delaware: What’s the craziest thing a customer has ever done for his or her love of the Dairy Palace?
Joy Parker: We were recently most surprised to find out that one of our customers chose the Dairy Palace as the location for his marriage proposal. He was planning to pop the question at a winery, but when he came over the hill and saw the sun setting over the cone, he chose to make us part of their memories.
TSD: What do you think it is that makes people so obsessed with you?
Parker: We’re dedicated to serving delicious ice cream with a smile. We aim to make the entire experience positive, not just our customers’ tummies.
TSD: What is different about Dairy Palace, whether it’s the product or the patrons, from when you were founded in 1956? How much of the menu is the same as it was in the 1950s?
Parker: Most of the staples that our customers loved in the 1950s are still on our menu today, but we’ve added countless new toppings and combinations so that there’s always something new to try. As far as our customers are concerned, many smiling faces that we saw in the 1950s are still coming up to our windows and bringing their kids, grandkids, and even-great grandkids to keep the tradition alive.
TSD: What would you like people to know about Dairy Palace that would surprise them?
Parker: Some might be surprised to know that the Dairy Palace has been in our family since 1956. My parents owned the business until 1999 when I purchased it from them. It was and still is very much a whole family effort and tradition.
TSD: Besides the owners, who would you say has the longest love affair with Dairy Palace?
Parker: We have far too many to count! We have customers that have come up almost daily for years, and others who have moved away but are always sure to stop by when they’re in town.
Bonus question: Will you ever consider year-round service?
Parker: Year-round ice cream is not in our future. We like to open in the spring like the daffodils, smiling and ready for a new season.