St. Croix Scoops

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 a classic, Nelson’s Ice Cream, and its famously large portion sizes.

Nelson’s Ice Cream

For this week’s episode, Kim interviewed Daved Najarian, who owns Nelson’s Ice Cream with his father, Dave Najarian.

Q: What is the history of Nelson’s in Stillwater?

A: Opened in 1923 as Seven Corners Grocery Store. And the kind of cool thing about that is I found that they served the first pasteurized milk in Stillwater. They used to sell the big 50 pound chunks of ice to keep your refrigerators cold and all that and sawdust. And of course they sold ice cream at that point. Then I believe it was the 40s, 47, the shop was run by a gentleman – Art Nelson. So maybe you’ve heard some people call it “Art’s.” To this day, that’s part of the reason why. He ran it and lived in that small storage shed on site. Then in the 60s, things were passed down to his son, Wade Nelson. That’s when they started to get known for the bigger scoops. They were serving like a double for 10 cents back then… In 2006 is when my family purchased it.

Q: How did the scoops get so big?

A: The best running theory after talking to the people who had worked there before, owned it before, because you’re dealing with, you know, high schoolers that were in there scooping ice cream and maybe it was for the cute girl that came in or whatever it was, or they started noticing their tips got bigger when the scoops got bigger. Because it was kind of a laissez-faire shop at that time or at least from the 60s on…I think you started to see a little size inflation as early as then and the reasons behind it might not have been as built into the business model as people thought. It might have been more influenced by the people, the actual scoopers there. And then it kind of takes off. So it’s kind of a hard question to answer as far as how we got there but we’re there now.

Q: What is the Lumberjack Challenge?

A: I think it was maybe 2008, we started that challenge, which is five softball-sized scoops, all the toppings. If you finish it yourself: picture on the wall, all the fame and glory, adding t-shirts to that shortly. We did kind of do a coinciding Lumberjack eating contest with Lumberjack Days… There’s a lot of people that try it. I’d say percentage success rate is lower than 10. It’s fun to scoop them and it’s fun to see them try it.

This week’s picks

Listen to the podcast to hear Kim and Alicia discuss their impressions after taking on the Lumberjack Challenge; five different flavors in a mountain of ice cream. Here are this week’s selections:


Blue Raspberry, Cherry and Vanilla flavored ice cream

Coconut Joy

Coconut flavored ice cream with Chocó coconut flakes, coconut flakes, and chocolate covered almonds

Rich and Famous

Brownie pieces, cookie pieces and cookie dough

Salted Caramel Swirl

Vanilla ice cream with a salted caramel swirls

White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle

Raspberry filled chocolate truffles & raspberry variegate swirled in white chocolate ice-cream

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