Stillwater Gazette editor Alicia Lebens and reporter Kim Schneider are visiting local spots for cold treats for the Gazette’s summer ice cream podcast, “St. Croix Scoops.”
They’re not experts on ice cream — but they do enjoy it, so they sampled a variety of scoops from the Stillwater area (tough job, we know). While the St. Croix Valley has many options, this podcast will feature just a few of the many great places to grab a scoop of ice cream.
Each episode also features an interview with an owner of the shop we visit.
This week’s episode of “St. Croix Scoops” features Leo’s Grill & Malt Shop, a local favorite in downtown Stillwater.
Leo’s Grill & Malt Shop
For this week’s episode, Kim interviewed Leo’s owner Cory Buettner.
Q: What is the history of Leo’s?
A: My wife and I were looking for a restaurant to purchase with my dad and the plan was is he was going to buy the building and I was going to remodel or make it a newer restaurant. So we were looking at places in White Bear Lake and in Hudson. At the time, we were living in Stillwater and we did this probably six different trips. My parents and I would just drive around looking for properties and stuff. We stopped into what was at the time, Darla’s or Lily’s on Main Street, and my dad said ‘this is the perfect spot. If this place ever comes up, jump at it. It’s perfect.’ It was about a mile away from our house. At the time, I was like well they’re established. But yeah, okay I can kind of just plug that one away.
A place in Hudson fell through, a place in White Bear Lake and then we did make an offer on a place in Midway but that we got outbid. And then my dad, he was an older dad. I’m the youngest of 11 kids. He had a stroke and passed away. About a month after his passing, just a little restaurant tidbits in the Pioneer Press said that the owners of the malt shop on Main Street were looking to sell. So I took my dad’s advice.
Q: You’ve owned Leo’s for a little more than 10 years and you’ve said you want to expand. What are your dreams for expansion?
A: Well, we’ve gone through quite a few different ideas and we’ve had architects come out and take a look. I think what we’re planning on doing is keeping the patio as a functioning patio. What that allows us to do is take advantage of the seasonality of the ice cream business of Stillwater but at the same time, improve it.
We do need to put in a building because we don’t have a restroom for our patio customers and that’s always been a big stressor for me. We need to kind of update our garbage area and our shed. And then we need to have a service station. So if someone orders a Coca Cola on the patio, our servers have to run all the way up to Main Street to get it through the building and weave their way through. And there’s some opportunities for maybe more ice cream. We do make Leo’s malt cups and yesterday we were making ice cream sandwiches. All that is done in our basement. The basement at Leo’s – it’s like five and a half feet. We’re outgrowing that space because the popularity of our novelty ice creams that we’ve been making. So I think we’re going to have a production area for that on the patio and then probably some sort of operation where we’ll be selling to the general public. We’re hoping that will take place this winter and then be ready for customers in April.
Q: What kinds of ice cream treats does Leo’s offer?
A: We make more malts and shakes than anything else as far as ice cream. We can blend all sorts of stuff into our malts and shakes. Chocolate is definitely the biggest, most popular selling but we have nutella. We have butterfinger, oreo. This past weekend with Fourth of July we had the pop rock “Firecracker.” So it’s wild cherry flavored ice cream or malt and then we put pop rocks in it and on top.
But anyways, so that, first and foremost that’s our biggest ice cream mover. Second place for sure is our scooped ice cream...We developed the ice cream novelties to facilitate serving people at our food truck. So when Leo’s on Wheels, we started three years, we knew we couldn’t do shakes and malts on the food truck just because of storage and inefficiencies. It just wasn’t gonna work. So we developed this chocolate malt cup which is very similar to what you would have at a Twin’s Baseball game with a wooden spoon and it was very popular so we’ve kind of expanded that.
This week’s picks
Listen to the podcast to hear Kim, Alicia and summer intern Jaimee Hood enjoy Leo’s milkshakes. Here are this week’s selections: