Westland ice cream shop has been Wayne Road sweet spot for decades
Popularity of Dairy Dan can be attributed to a number of factors, most of all its tastebuds-pleasing product
On a recent overcast, drizzly, low-40s day, two cars pulled into the drive-through of Dairy Dan a couple minutes after the hot Westland business with cool product opened.
Although the weather suggested it might be more of a hot chocolate kind of afternoon, the landmark ice cream shop on Wayne Road appeared to be well on its way to another prolific sales day, which is the norm for a destination that has satisfied its customers’ tastebuds for over two decades.
When asked about the enduring appeal of the ice cream shop her father purchased in 1999, owner Julie Skore McBride listed a menu of qualities that has generated year-round traffic.
“The number one thing is we use premium ice cream,” said Skore McBride. “A lot of the other ice cream shops use more of an ice-milk product; the fat content isn’t as high as ours and you can tell by the way it tastes.
“We use a premium mix that is more costly, but it’s richer. It’s real ice cream.”
As a result, the business’s customer base is real loyal, Skore McBride shared.
“We have a lot of longtime customers who come back even after they move out of state because it’s their favorite place,” she said. “Something that appeals to our customers, too, is that our employees are great. We have the nicest girls working for us … the kindest, most-appreciative and thankful employees. They’re the ones who really keep us going.”
Although the drive-through lines during the summer months snake around the modest-sized brick building with the new red awning and out onto Wayne Road — sometimes reaching the MJR Westland Grand Cinema 16 two blocks south — the wait to be served is generally 10 minutes, max.
“Even when the lines are long, our employees get people in and out,” Skore McBride said. “When it’s busy, which it is a lot, it’s a fast-paced job; it’s not for everybody. You have to be on your toes, but they love it. We have some college students who work for us and most of them return once school is out.”
Picking out a most-popular item on the shop’s menu is difficult, Skore McBride admitted.
“We have a variety of items that people seem to love,” she said. “The flurries, the shakes, our malts — even plain cones.”
“The real fruit shakes are popular,” chimed in Carina Bersano, one of the Dairy Dan managers whose tenure at the shop exceeds even Skore McBride’s.
Bersano was employed by the shop’s previous owners — Pat and Gary Root — and stayed on board once the McBrides purchased the business in ’99.
“Carina is such a valuable employee because she can do it all; she’s very mechanically inclined, she’s super intelligent and incredibly reliable.”
Once Marv Skore retired as a psychologist in the late-90s, he looked to acquire a range of metro-Detroit businesses. Dairy Dan caught his eye because of its always-busy atmosphere, his daughter said.
“He really wanted to purchase an ice cream shop and this one caught his eye,” Skore McBride said. “When he asked the owners if it was for sale, they said no, but they’d be willing to sell it for the right price. So he bought it.”
The owners make sure they give back a lot of the love the community has given them, Skore McBride noted.
“For instance, we helped sponsor a recent police and firefighter hockey event in Westland,” she said. “We’ve sponsored youth football teams and good-cause events like a pink-out game for breast cancer awareness and families against narcotics.
“I think it’s very important to give back to the community that is so loyal to us.”
Which makes the relationship between Dairy Dan and the members of the surrounding community as sweet as one of the shop’s seasonal pumpkin marshmallow shakes.
With no end in sight.
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