BY NATHAN PAYNE firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — 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.
The business had two allures to Carol, said Carol’s daughters. She could serve customers with a smile, often leaning down to shoot a smile through the service window, and she could see her grandchildren every day.
“She used to say, ‘I’ll stay open as long as we’re still having fun,’” Stacey said. “I think she loved the service.”
The six days the family closed the shop in late August to be by Carol’s side in her final days then to conduct her funeral were the first days since they’ve owned the Dairy Lodge that it’s closed, said Stacey.
And since re-opening a string of strangers who knew Carol from her constant work at the stand have stopped to express their condolences.
They tell the women how much their mother will be missed, how much she meant to the community. The women were surprised when 600 people turned out for their her funeral.
But it is Ray who will miss Carol the most.
“My wife,” he said glancing at a stack of pictures of his wife at the shop with her grandchildren. “She won’t come home.”