Do you remember Tastee-Freez? Just the name conjures up visions of vintage cars and drive-ins, a place the whole family could go to get banana splits or root beer floats after dinner. It might have been your after school job, or the place where you met your friends to hang out. If you had one in your town, chances are you spent some time there. The iconic ice cream shop turns 70 this year, and although Tastee-Freez is still around, it's seen a few changes over the years.
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The first thing to know is that if you love soft serve ice cream, you owe thanks to the two men who created the technology that made Tastee-Freez a classic. Leo Moranz and Harry Axene, the inventor and the businessman respectively, partnered in 1950 to create and sell what was at the time a revolutionary soft-serve ice cream pump and freezer. This new ice cream technology was better than anything on the market and allowed for ice cream shops to offer faster service and a better product.
Because quick-serve chains were booming in the 50s and those restaurants were looking for ways to make and serve food quickly, these new freezer and pumps were wildly successful. But instead of simply selling their creation, Moranz and Axene used it as a way to get into the restaurant business more directly. They gave ice creams stands permission to use the Tastee-Freez name in exchange for the shops paying rent on the ice cream pump needed to operate each freezer.
The number of shops grew rapidly, from 315 in 1952 to almost 1800 locations across the United States in 1957. But nothing lasts forever. While Tastee-Freez continued to be popular for several decades, by 1992 the number of locations had decreased to 340.
In 2003, the Galardi Group bought Tastee-Freez, after the two brands had worked together for four years to bring the soft-serve ice cream to the Galardi-owned Wienerschnitzel hot dog restaurants.
The iconic ice cream shop is still around, though you won't find the freestanding restaurants in too many places. There are currently 11 stand-alone Tastee-Freez locations, in Alaska, Florida, Maryland, Illinois, North Dakota, Minnesota, South Carolina, and Vermont. They are all more traditional fast food restaurants, serving burgers and onion rings along with old fashioned sundaes and soft serve cones.
You can also find Tastee-Freez soft serve ice cream in Wienerschnitzel and Hamburger Stand restaurants.