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The winter window coverings at Selma's remain. (Bulletin photo by Amber Kispert)

Selma's Ice Cream Parlour hangs up scoop

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With Afton's Mayfair quickly approaching, and summer soon to follow, a longtime institution is noticeably absent from town -- Selma's Ice Cream Parlour.

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For the last several months one of the revered landmarks of the St. Croix River Valley has remained quiet and empty.

Selma's traditionally shuts down for the winter months, but when springtime rolled around and the historic ice cream parlor remained closed, many residents began to wonder what happened.

Repeated phone calls to owner Chet Kurtz went unreturned, but an employee at one of his restaurants confirmed last week that the ice cream parlor is definitely closed.

"It's a big loss for Afton," said Carol Brotzler, of the Afton Historical Society. "It's a destination for a lot of people in the summer."

Several sources said they have heard health issues may have played a role in Kurtz's decision to close the shop.

Business neighbors said they were left uneasy not knowing whether Selma's will remain closed indefinitely or go up for sale.

"It's terrible, it's unfortunate," said Dave Jarvis of the Afton House Inn. "It's going to be a big loss if it doesn't open again because Selma's is so important to Afton."

Selma's Ice Cream Parlour has been a staple in Afton since the 1930s when Selma and Eddie Holberg opened its doors for business.

Since Selma's served its first scoop it has become a tradition for many.

"Selma's is an institution; it's very important to people," Jarvis said. "It's a part of their life and their lifestyle."

The business has transferred hands over the years after the Holbergs sold the restaurant in the 1950s.

Laine McGee bought the restaurant in 1980 and owned it until 2007 when she sold it to local businessman Joe Farrington. That same year the business was sold to Kurtz, who added a Panino's sandwiches to the space.

In addition to being an important regional summertime destination for many, Selma's Ice Cream Parlour has also been a very important part of the Afton business community, according to those who know it best.

When Afton Leather and Gifts, which is located next door to Selma's, opened several years ago, owner Jim Kaempfer said Selma's Ice Cream Parlour was a big contributing factor in their location choice, adding that ice cream parlors are frequent stops for motorcyclists, Afton Leather's primary clientele.

Kaempfer said Selma's helped his store attract customers in the early days.

"Its been a wonderful customer draw for us," he said. "We couldn't have stayed in business without them.

Selma's closing is very unfortunate for the community, said Afton Mayor Pat Snyder.

"I know all of the businesses in town have been down," Snyder said. "When you have all these vacant buildings, it really doesn't help things."

Jarvis said the business community will have to move on with or without one of its oldest neighbors.

"Afton is still very alive," he said. "People come here for other reasons -- it's a package deal -- there's many parts to the body."

Snyder said she could see Selma's closing having an impact on tourists who find their way down to Afton during the summer months.

"You talk to anyone and it's Selma's, Lerk's, the Afton House Inn and the Squire House," Snyder said. "Selma's was a big draw and we'll certainly miss it."

Both Jarvis and Kaempfer said they have heard from customers and residents that they are a little disappointed in not being able to get their Selma's ice cream. In its absence, Afton Bean coffee shop has been serving up scoops, said Jarvis. The Afton Bean is owned by the Afton House Inn.

Brotzler said she is concerned for the ice cream shop's future since it has had some problems in the past.

"In this economy, who wants to take the risk?" she said.

Kaempfer is looking on the bright side that Selma's will scoop again, whenever that will be.

"If (Chet Kurtz) doesn't open it, someone else will," he said. "Somebody will snatch it up."

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
(651) 702-0976
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