Throughout the recent economic downturn it is important to notice area businesses that have survived generations of economic roller coaster rides and remained in business. Each week through the end of 2009 the Villager Journal will salute these area businesses. Congratulations go out to all those who have remained in our community, making the area a place in which we are proud to call home.
When asked where the best place to stop for ice cream in the tri-county area is, many will not dispute the famous soft serve that is offered at the Ash Flat Dairy Freeze. Nearly three generations have been coming to the area for not only the best ice cream but also special cooked lunches and treats that have made the small area restaurant a favorite among many.
Although Duane and Faye Fulton have owned the Ash Flat Dairy Freeze since 1980, the history of the well known establishment goes back to the early 1960s.
The Dairy Bar, as it was called in the early years, was built by Audie Whited, a local carpenter for Troy and Virgie Ozbirn on their property at 681 Ash Flat Drive.
In 1974, the Fulton's along with Paul and Linda Hall leased the restaurant from the Ozbirn's before the Fulton's finally took over complete ownership in 1980 when the business was given the current name.
Faye Fulton said the business is proud to have celebrated 35 years of business in June. She attributes her business's success to many loyal customers which she said come from far and wide.
The Fulton's said they try to treat everyone that comes through their doors like family by making them feel at home.
Faye said everything is made to order, which may take longer than at a fast food restaurant, but said, "It is well worth it." She said Ash Flat Dairy Freeze never cooks anything ahead of time so customers are assured their orders are hot and fresh.
She said they are blessed to have customers who stop yearly while on vacations to enjoy the food and catch up on happenings from the previous year.
Fulton said they even have a very special couple from Batesville who makes the drive to Ash Flat to eat at the Ash Flat Dairy Freeze. She said, "One day last week we received a call from them, she was in the hospital and wanted me to fix her something to eat, she was sending her husband up to pick it up." She said every customer is special to them.
As a child, I remember going into the Dairy Bar with my parents for a hamburger and always having their ice cream. She said when they first opened, coffee cost a dime and hamburgers a quarter and milk shakes were 40 cents.
Although food costs and inflation have forced the Fulton's to raise prices, customer service and good food has remained a constant. The ice cream is still to be considered some of the best in the area.
Fulton said she has been asked to open Dairy Freezes in areas as far away as Branson, Jonesboro and Memphis.
The Ash Flat Dairy Freeze is located on Highway 167 in Ash Flat. Come early and pull up a chair and visit with the regulars who show up around 8 a.m. each weekday to share a cup of coffee and some good discussion.