Dairy Hut capitalizes on small-town charm
As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, many Pataskala residents know that means their time is limited to get food and ice cream from the Dairy Hut at the southeast corner of Broad and Main streets.
"We're open from April to mid to late September," said Karen Bocock, whose husband, Gary, bought the business with his father, Calvin, in 1979.
This year, the Dairy Hut will close for the season today, Sept. 29. It will be open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Karen Bocock said regulars come daily to the Dairy Hut but added, "We say that every day we keep getting new customers."
She said many customers are drawn locally from Pataskala and Etna, but plenty more come from Reynoldsburg, Johnstown, Newark and Granville.
It typically remains busy throughout the summer.
"One of our challenges is that we don't have a big enough parking lot," Karen Bocock said. "There are lines out to the road and sometimes down the road."
She said one of the reasons for the long lines is the food.
"We stick to the same menu, sandwiches and mostly ice cream," she said. "We're known for our coneys. Our coney sauce is made from scratch."
The Dairy Hut also has specialty sundaes, such as the Buckeye sundae, which features vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and peanut butter toppings with chocolate and peanut butter candies and a buckeye candy on top.
The Dairy Hut also offers 30 different flavors of soft serve ice cream, using natural flavors to mix its own concoctions, she said.
Gary Bocock said the Dairy Hut's employees also keep people coming back.
"I think over the years we just really have good employees who really treat customers good," he said.
The Bococks hire only people who want to be there, he said.
Patty Frazier is one of them. Frazier said she retired once from food service, having managed Furr's Cafe in Kansas City, Mo., for 25 years.
She said she likes working at the Dairy Hut because it's a fun job and it keeps her busy.
"The customers make it fun," Frazier said.
Gary Bocock said they also hire high school students and probably have employed 250 students since 1979.
"That's been a lot of fun," he said. "They go on to become doctors, dentists or pharmacists."
At times, Karen Bocock said, five to six workers are crammed in the small space, which isn't wide enough for all of them to stand side by side.
They make it work, she said, because the customers keep coming back.
People stopping by Sept. 29 could see Pataskala Mayor Steve Butcher, who planned to take his grandchildren there for one last taste of summer.
"It's literally an institution and my grandkids just love it," Butcher said. "It helps that they are at a major intersection and it's so convenient to get in and out."