How An Ice Cream Stand Made Pineapple A Local Flavor Of Missouri
All summer, Weekend Edition has been traveling the country in search of local flavor. The Midwest marks the latest stop on that trip of taste, down in Springfield, Mo. But the spot we found sports a distinctly tropical vibe.
It's called Pineapple Whip — both the beloved frozen dessert, and the series of roadside stands that sling them to long lines of eager eaters. And the treat is simple, too: a nondairy, juice-based soft serve. Something so simple, and so distinctive, it's tough to label it with any readily recognizable category, any name but its own.
But how did such a tropical taste get so associated with the middle of Missouri?
"You'd have to ask my grandfather that," says Zach Fortner, the owner of Pineapple Whip. "He put down roots here years ago, and this is where he started it. So this is where we remain."
It's been a while, too: Three generations of Fortners have been serving up pineapple whip. And while the pineapples have to be shipped in from elsewhere — you can thank crop troubles in Missouri the past few years for that — the enthusiasm for the confection is all local.
"It's summer, so we're busy. We're only open during the summer months," says Fortner. But last winter, they did try something new, opening for three days in the bitter cold. "We called it our 'Whip Solstice.' People actually came! We had lines a hundred deep, and it was 27 degrees outside. We're still scratching our heads on that one a little bit."
And the customers come from all types.
"Very often, we have ... moms who've just had their babies, and the first request the mom has is to have some pineapple whip brought to them. I always like seeing things like that," Fortner says. "We had a wedding party come on their way to the reception a few weeks ago."
The whip-churning's a bit of an about-face for Fortner, in particular. It may be a family business, but it wasn't always his. He was a banker for 10 years before coming to the business — and, he says, the change of scenery has been a joy.
"I couldn't have picked a [more] polar opposite career to switch to," Fortner says. "But I wouldn't trade it for the world. I get to make people happy all day, so what more could you ask for."
As for those long lines of happy people, well: "We're just thankful that we have people coming back to see us as often as they do."
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