TRAVERSE CITY — Patrice Korson has some pretty big shoes to fill.
“Hi, Mary,” she called out through a small square window during a recent afternoon working at the Dairy Lodge. “The usual?”
Korson smiled at Mary Clark, one of the ice cream stand’s regular customers before ducking back inside to make the dish — an M&M Flurry made with twist ice cream and not mixed too much.
She makes sure to smile at every customer, even the regulars like Clark who know Korson and her family haven’t had much to smile about lately. She carries the mantle of customer service because it’s what her mother, Carol Popp, would have done.
Popp, who owned the ice cream stand for the past 28 seasons with her husband, Ray, died Aug. 25. The 75-year-old northern Michigan native operated the stand with pride, often working seven days a week to ensure her customers were happy.
Thousands of customers were greeted during the decades by Popp’s smile and curly gray hair framed by the restaurant’s service windows.
Above the window, taped under a list of prices, still hangs a reminder from Popp to her employees to treat each customer with respect. She insisted that everybody, whether a local or a tourist, be treated with respect.
“Every customer is entitled to a smile,” the paper reads.
“She wanted everybody to be treated the same,” Korson said. “Everybody gets the same service.”
It is service that the Popp family intends to continue for the foreseeable future because it’s what Carol would have wanted, said Stacey Popp.
Stacey, Korson and their siblings and children have committed to help their father continue to operate the landmark ice cream stand for at least one more year. For nearly three decades, it has had few employees who weren’t family.