116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
My Biz: Ice cream shop hearkens to the '40s
By Bryon Houlgrave, correspondent
Name: Craig Running
Company: Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Co.
Address: 410 W. Water St., Decorah
Phone: (563) 382-1242
Elevator pitch: It's as much about the place as about the ice cream.
DECORAH - After decades in the cerebral field of psychiatry, a former counselor gave it all up for a sweeter career.
Decorah's Craig Running has been scooping up ice cream cones at the Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Co. since starting the business in 2008, after working at the Mayo Clinic psychiatric unit for many years.
“At that stage of my life I was looking at what were my best options,” said Running, 64. “I thought ‘What could I do at this juncture of my life that suits my life situation?'”
He settled on an old-fashioned ice cream shop.
“I thought that an ice-cream parlor would be seasonal, there would be a niche market for it and there wasn't any competition” in Decorah, he recalled.
Running bought a commercial building on Water Street, Decorah's main commercial avenue, and began tearing it down to rebuild a new structure of his own design. Work continued over the course of eight years.
“I was working with a plot of land that was about 600 square feet, so I had to design the building according to that footprint, and at the same time allow for more occupancy,” Running said.
Running's goal was to design a building that offered character and attractiveness.
The two-story building features an open ceiling, with seating available on both levels, and a balcony that overlooks downtown.
“It makes the place attractive to walk in to,” Running said. “The balcony also serves as a good visual draw.”
The shop, which sells 24 flavors of ice cream, is decorated in 1940s to 1960s era memorabilia. A large Schwinn ice cream tricycle hangs from the open ceiling, which Running restored after picking it up on eBay.
The store also features old soda company signs, neon placards for local taxi companies and tobacco businesses.
“I was specifically looking for Decorah memorabilia. I went around many of the stores in Decorah and asked the owners if I could just go down to their basements and look around. I did find several pieces,” he said.
“He's taken the whole shop back to what it would be like to be in a soda shop back in the 1950s,” said Nikki Brevig, executive director of the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce. “He's very creative.”
The Sugar Bowl features ice cream from the Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Co. of Madison, Wisc.
The store is open from late March to October. Running will use help during big events, such as Nordic Fest or Luther College Homecoming - other than that, he's a one-man show.
“I get a lot of positive feedback about” the building, Running said. “People ... tell me it's unique.”