By Michael DePietro
Interim Niagara-Wheatfield Tribune Editor
In Niagara Falls, there are few images more iconic to locals than the giant cow that sits perched atop of De Dee’s Dairy. Around this time of year, the beloved bovine is usually overlooking scores of sticky-faced patrons and pineapple-sized ice cream cones at the picnic table below. The sight is something of an official announcement that spring is here.
While the patio at De Dee’s is empty thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, inside, employees are still serving up hefty scoops of that springtime feeling. Except nowadays, it’s to go.
Shortly after opening for the season on March 13, De Dee’s made the transition to call ahead orders only, with pickups available either at the walk-up window or carside on request.
So far, it’s been a hit.
“We just had to install a second phone line to handle all the orders. People were having trouble getting through,” De Dee’s owner Gary Wilcox said with a laugh. “We didn’t want it to get like that Yogi Berra quote, you know, ‘Nobody goes there any more, it’s just too busy.’ ”
Part of the success might be due in part to a popular new menu addition. Customers can now order flights that hold up to six heaping scoops of the ice cream flavors of their choice. The addition has been such a hit that it’s given way to the “De Dee’s Challenge” on social media.
Wilcox said customers had started purchasing the $8.95 flights and working their way down the restaurant's expansive list of Perry’s Ice Cream flavors. For those keeping score at home, that’s 67 flavors in total.
All other menu items are also still available for order, including milkshakes, sundaes, banana splits, lemon ice and the hometown favorite, orange chocolate custard.
Wilcox, who has owned the almost 40-year-old establishment for the past 15 years, said operating during this time has certainly been an “interesting experience.” Above all else, he expressed gratitude for De Dee’s loyal customer base and their patience during the transition period.
While it may not be the tradition as everyone remembers it, Wilcox said the changes have gone over well with customers.
“The carside has been really well received. It sort of reminds you of how restaurants used to do it, except without the roller skates,” he said.
For those who grew up with De Dee’s as part of their spring and summertime tradition, it’s hard to express how much it means to have something familiar and positive to turn to amid these uncertain times. Wilcox said he’s happy De Dee’s can provide the community with something comforting.
“It’s all been a really positive experience. People have been thanking us in line and on Facebook for being here. People just need something positive in their lives these days,” he said.
De Dee’s Dairy is located at 8715 Niagara Falls Blvd. It’s open daily from noon to 9 p.m. For more information, call 716-297-8856.