Big Chill Comes Over La Verne with Dippin’ Dots Serving Constant, Cool Refreshment

July 8, 2009
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Terry and Don Eaton are the proud owners of Dippin' Dots, La Verne's new happy place.

Terry and Ron Eaton are the proud owners of Dippin' Dots, La Verne's new happy place.

It pays to shop in La Verne.

It was Christmas season 2007, and Terry Eaton didn’t have time to go to the mall to complete her holiday shopping. So instead, she pulled up in front of the Candle, Linen and Soap Factory in downtown La Verne, attracted by a large “50% off” sign in the window. Inside, the owner told Terry she was planning to close her business and move to San Diego. It was as if she had just talked to Mrs. Santa herself.

For months, Terry had been searching for the ideal location in which to locate her new Dippin’ Dots franchise that she and her husband Ron had been awarded after a long, exhaustive search to buy a franchise. Each possibility ended in disappointment. But this new lead seemed different, as if it were meant to be.

“My mind was racing,” Terry said. “I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I can be in downtown La Verne. I love it here.’” Downtown rents are also cheaper than what they are on the boulevard, which meant she could also afford to provide more seating and build a special events party room with the additional square footage.

She snapped back to reality long enough to ask who owned the building. When told it was long-time La Verne insurance broker George Henderson, whose business was right around the corner on 3rd Street, she carried her candles out the door and raced over to his office.

It’s a good thing she did, because less than 24 hours later when Terry and Ron went to speak with George again, he said he had already been approached by another person interested in leasing the space. George honored his verbal commitment to Terry, and handed the happy couple the keys to the place on Jan. 1, 2008.

Converting a candle shop into an ice cream emporium was no easy task. Fortunately, Ron’s brother and father were in the construction business, so he and Terry got the family discount to basically gut the entire shop.

They put in new pipes, plumbing and flooring, among a long checklist of tasks. The location that had also served as a dance studio was becoming a cool place to chill.

“We uncovered pink walls, pieces of the old dance floor, and we found an old shirt up in the rafters,” Terry said. “I was hoping to uncover something really cool.” Alas, there was  no original copy of the Declaration of Independence hiding in the walls or rafters, but it was fun to dream.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to opening was the health department’s insistence on the installation of a large water heater with far greater capacity than the one they had planned on using.

“With the water heater we now have,” Terry said, “we can heat the whole state of Alaska.”

From left, sisters, Marissa, Daniella and Araceli look pretty cool while enjoying some delicious Dippin' Dots

From left, sisters, Marissa, Daniella and Araceli look pretty cool while enjoying some delicious Dippin' Dots

Before opening on their first day, Ron and Terry had been eating sandwiches in the Dippin’ Dots party room. They saw a line forming outside and felt compelled to open early, setting off La Verne’s craze for cryogenically frozen ice cream, yogurt and ices that shows no signs of melting any time soon.

Invented in 1988 by microbiologist Curt Jones, Dippin’ Dots are made from fresh dairy ingredients that are frozen almost instantly in liquid nitrogen, a common element in the atmosphere used commercially for flash freezing. After production at company headquarters in Paducah, Kentucky, Dippin’ Dots are packaged and shipped worldwide, including to La Verne, Calif.

Not only are the ice cream beads delicious and fun to eat, the flash-freezing process locks in flavor and freshness.

“After overcoming the sight of their ice cream beads pouring into a cup, there’s this look of amazement that ice cream can be tingly and almost crunchy,” Terry said. “Then, when the smooth, creamy ice cream begins to melt in their mouth, another fan is born.”

The tiny beads also come in yogurt, sherbet, flavored ice and non-sugar added varieties, so there’s really a frozen match to fit every dietary and nutritional preference.

Like that other ice cream legend, Dippin’ Dots boasts at least 31 flavors.

“The flavors are amazing,” Terry said, snacking on a sample size of candy bar crunch with Snickers, her personal favorite. “If it says cotton candy, it tastes exactly like cotton candy. Banana split tastes like eating a banana split without eating. The flavors are so good and so true to what they’re supposed to be.”

What few people realize about this new futuristic way of eating ice cream is that Terry and her staff can also prepare shakes as creamy as the old-fashioned way. “Some people prefer creamy ice cream, so I’ll make them a shake and they’re happy,” Terry said. Currently, she’s running a summer Wednesday special, $3 for a shake.

Dippin’ Dots is also famous for its dot-cakes and dot-wiches. The cakes come with a vanilla or chocolate crust atop which are clustered thousands of frozen dots held together with a clear bon-bon sauce. Customers can call in special orders or simply pick up one of the cakes that she always tries to keep on hand, such as perennial favorites, banana split and cookies and cream.

Delivering all this goodness literally takes a lot of energy. Dippin’ Dots are stored in freezers at 40-degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Your home freezer’s thermostat, by contrast, is usually set at zero. At events, such as football games and concerts in the park, Dippin’ Dots are shipped and stored in dry ice.

It also takes a lot of human energy, too, to operate Dippin’ Dots. Unlike owning a shop at the mall or in a beach town where there is continual foot traffic and point of sale purchases, Terry and Ron have had to take their product to the people to be successful, at least in their start-up phase until their name, products and added fountain treats become totally branded in the community.

“I thought this is where (the shop) we would spend all our time,” Terry said. “I didn’t realize there was was going to be this whole other aspect of this business where we go and do outside events.”

Terry and Ron have also invested in a Dippin Dots’ vending machine that dispenses Dippin’ Dots with a robotic arm. Currently the machine is in the Upland Sports Arena. They also provide Dippin Dots at an Inland Empire amusement park.

Of course, for amusements, meetings and birthdays, guests can use Dipping Dots’ party room for free. Customers pay only for the ice cream they buy.

“Being a parent with three kids who have gone through sports, we were always looking for a place for a team to gather or host a birthday party or team meeting. Now we have it. People can bring in whatever food and drink they want.  We just charge you for the ice cream you want to buy.

“And we clean up after you.”

Now that’s a deal.

Dippin’ Dots located in downtown La Verne at 2310 D Street. Phone: (909) 593-1739.

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