By Sue Moore
“It’s been a crazy first 25 days that we have been open!” Apple Knockers Ice Cream Parlor’s co-owner Rita Sertic exclaimed at the shop’s new Vicksburg location at 220 W. Prairie St.
Sertic and her mom, Paula Hochstetler, and sister, Angela Palomaki, started the business 10 years ago in a small shop at 115 W. Prairie. At the new location, formerly the Ralph Hayward insurance agency, they have enlarged seating capacity inside and out. “We knew we were going to be busy but we had no idea it was going to be this busy. It’s like car show every day. We feel very blessed because of all the love and support everyone has showered upon us.”
“We purchased the property for our new location last fall,” Sertic said. “The folks at Hayward were gracious enough to let us start outside renovations in the fall,” Sertic said. That work included a deck next to the water with a ship’s prow hanging over the side inviting to young and old.
“So, we were glad we could get a jump start on the outside. We knew we wouldn’t be able to start our building renovations until they were able to move out. We were finally able to start our work on April 1st. It was not easy! We did a lot of the work ourselves (many late nights and early mornings) but we also had a long list of contractors that helped us along the way. We had a few delays but ultimately we were able to complete our work in eight weeks to the day on June 1,” Sertic said.
Hochstetler described the history of the ship’s prow out over the pond on Sunset Lake. “When we discussed with our builder, Jim Van Horn, about extending the deck to the water’s edge, so children could look down into the pond, we suggested cantilevering the deck and putting a captain’s wheel at one end to add interest. Jim suggested adding a ship. We gave him free license to come up with whatever he thought children would love, and one winter day as we drove by, we saw half a ship on our deck!! He built it from scratch in his pole barn and delivered and mounted it on site. We didn’t see it until it was in place. What a surprise! Jim and his crew deserve full credit for the design and craftsmanship it took to create such a masterpiece! It is made from cedar wood and we hope people will enjoy it for many years to come. My husband and I used to joke about “someday when our ship would come in. It looks like finally, half of it arrived.”
“A line started forming about 30 minutes or so before opening and as soon as we unlocked the door, it just never shut. We had a line to the road the entire day. It was a record day for us, it beat every car show day we had had in the past 10 years. Everyone was so patient with us and stood in the long lines and waited and then waited even more to get their orders. Food orders were taking 25 plus minutes to complete, but everyone was so understanding,” Sertic said.
“We had a lot of kinks to work out and it took a while for us to find our groove; just the new building, new flow, trying to figure what was working and what wasn’t. We are still working on all that, to be honest,” she explained. “There is always a better way to do something. We have tons of stuff to still complete; lots of outdoor gardening to do, a few things to build, we have a lot of fun ideas we just haven’t had the time to execute yet because we have been so busy.”
Sertic doesn’t have exact numbers, but just based on the number of food orders taken and scoops of ice cream served, she figured they had close to 5,000 people through the doors in the first week they were open.
“Then we had car show. Car show is back on top as our best day in 10 years. It beat out our opening day, which I didn’t think was possible,” she said. “We really didn’t know what to expect for car show this year because we are a little further down the street than where we were before. We had such great weather this year and I think it helped that the craft venders were all up along that stretch of West Prairie. Plus, I think the ship on the deck piques everyone’s curiosity. It’s hard to miss!”
“We are absolutely loving our new location and all of our feedback from the public has been amazing and really positive. It’s always a little nerve-wracking, moving your entire business. But I know we made the right decision. We are in such a fun location with lots of options now. We still have a lot of work to do but we really love our new home. And you know us, we always have a few ideas floating around, so this is just the beginning,” Sertic said. They are also the proud owners of Windfall Coffeehouse, just down the street at 625 E. Prairie Street.