Now in their second year of a three-year deal to operate concessions at the city's three pools, an Upper Arlington couple are trying to add services this summer and give residents and others another reason to visit Northam Park.
Former restaurant managers with additional experience in food service and catering, Kevin and Brittany Steidel were looking for opportunities to put their know-how to work in their community when they came across a city request for contract proposals to operate concessions at each of Upper Arlington's three swimming pools.
Because Kevin Steidel has summers off from his job as an entrepreneurship professor at Wittenberg University, the job seemed like a good fit. City officials agreed, and the couple's company, 365 Midwest Concessions, was given a three-year deal through 2019 to run the pools' concession stands, each of which they've dubbed The Dive.
During that first year, the couple decided they weren't fully using a newly built concession stand at Tremont Pool, which was outfitted with a window facing Northam Park.
"We probably sold 20 things total out of that window last year," Kevin Steidel said. "This year, it's been a lot. People are definitely coming up here with the intent of getting ice cream."
That's in concert with the plan the couple hatched to better serve Northam Park visitors and neighbors.
They wanted to fill a niche, especially for those who enjoy hand-dipped ice cream and who otherwise would have to drive across town or to other communities to get it.
In addition to the range of hot dogs, Donato's pizza and salad, pulled-pork and chicken sandwiches, nachos, yogurt, soft pretzels and drinks offered at The Dive at Tremont Pool, the couple contracted with Hershey's and now is selling 12 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream to pool guests and to anyone who comes to the Northam Park window.
Twenty percent of all of their sales from that site, as well as the ones at Devon Pool and Reed Road Water Park -- and a food trailer they take to special events such as the Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation Department's Spring Fling, Summer Fest and Fall Festival -- go back to the city to support pool operations.
Parks and recreation director Debbie McLaughlin said 365 Midwest generated $16,793 for the pools last year. The city expects to receive more this year, in part due to the expanded services at Tremont and because the pool there didn't open until mid-June last year.
"365 Midwest is responsible for all concession operations, including staff, inventory, food preparations and sales," McLaughlin said. "The location of the concession at Tremont Pool provided an opportunity to have both restrooms and a concession window to serve (Northam) Park users.
"The park generates a great flow of people with tennis, athletics, the playground and walk path through the center of the park."
Brittany Steidel agreed that potential is high for foot traffic and noted there's a lack of food and drink options in the park near Tremont Pool and the Upper Arlington Public Library's main branch. She said she hopes people will become accustomed to the service window, which is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.
"We saw a lot of people were driving to (shops) and there was nothing right here," she said. "We saw an opportunity for the park and neighborhood.
"With our backgrounds, we thought this fit nicely. Kevin's got summers off and we really were looking for something to do here in the community. We're residents, and we love this community."
Kevin Steidel said The Dive at Tremont Pool employs more than 20 people, all Upper Arlington High School students or recent graduates.
"We think of it more than they're just working for us," he said. "We're trying to help them do what they want to do: Pick the right college, save money.
"We talk to them about why they're working and what they're saving for. We say, 'All right. We'll help you get there.' "
He hopes The Dive at Tremont Pool will add to an already bustling area and become a gathering place or add to enjoyment of the park.
He noted customers already have embraced a signature item at the stand called "The Cannonball," which consists of one part snow cone, one part ice cream.
"If anybody orders that, our employees yell, 'Cannonball,' " Brittany Steidel said.
"They yell it, the kids in line yell it," Kevin Steidel said. "They love it.
"We both grew up in neighborhoods that had a park and ice cream shop and everybody went there and hung out. We said, 'Maybe that park window can be that thing here.' "