Scoop-abowl aims to be the dessert destination in Elkader

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By Willis Patenaude 


There is a new “dessert destination” in Elkader called Scoop-abowl, or “The Scoop” which is taking over the building that was for years been known as the Burger Barn. The business is the brainchild of local Tracy Nemechek, who took over the building in April and officially opened it Memorial Day weekend, but if not for a cardinal and a leap of faith, the doors of The Scoop, which has been an undertaking filled with some doubt, a few setbacks, and the slow machinations of time, might never have opened.


It was a few years ago when Tracy first had the opportunity to manage what was then known as the Burger Barn, a place she used to be a regular at, buying a cookie dough shake at every visit, but the timing wasn’t right. There were financial considerations and she was still the manager at the Elkader Golf Course, a job she got through another leap of faith, having applied with little experience. 


However, she got the job and learned quickly how to do daily tasks, like scheduling, ordering, and bookkeeping, skills which would prove useful when and if the time was right for her to venture out as a business owner, which would take another year.


As last year came to a close, things started to change in favor of Tracy and the notion of turning her dream into a reality, inched ever closer to fruition, but it needed a little nudge and another one of those leaps. First though, would come conversations with her Pastor after Sunday church, expounding on the challenges of business ownership, like getting loans, finding vendors, removing the doubt, and believing in yourself enough to know that you have what it takes to be your own boss. 


As she pondered the hard reality of the decision one day at home, she heard a “thump” on the window. Ordinarily, this would just be a sound worth a basic inspection and forgetting it once the culprit was identified, but on this day, the sound that grabbed her attention was made by a cardinal, which had flown into the window and “dazed” itself. There is a saying about cardinals, that when they appear, angels are near, oftentimes they are representations of departed loved ones. 


In this instance, the cardinal was a sign from Tracy’s father who passed away nine years ago, and ever since, she has seen the bird at various times, moments she believes are her father giving her a sign or simply just saying “hello.” Tracy picked the startled bird up, holding it in her hand until it “came back his sense.” In the moment, Tracy took a photo and knew it was her father, telling her to “have faith and go for it.” 


“My dad always supported me in everything I did so I knew it was a sign from him that I just needed to have faith in myself,” Tracy said. 


The motivational moment has been immortalized in a metal sign based on the picture she took that hangs in The Scoop, “front and center” and she never tires of sharing the story with curious patrons. 


Once the decision was made, it presented a host of new tasks that needed to be done, like naming the business. This was probably the easiest of the decisions stemming from Tracy’s love of ice cream and desserts and the main idea behind the business that everything they serve will be “scoopable,” so she went with Scoop-abowl. 


“I wanted a new look and new name since we were changing the menu,” Tracy said. 


Right now the menu offers ice cream, gelatos, sorbets, in a variety of flavors that currently stands at 35, but the changing menu would introduce a new challenge: where would she get the ice cream?


Initially, Tracy had planned to bring back the Chocolate Shoppe brand which had been served previously at the Burger Barn, but that contract went to another local business, so she “went on a hunt” for a different vendor. During this search, someone had told her about a place in Waukon called WW Homestead Dairy, so she “went sampling” and also bought several pints for a taste testing party with family. 


“The flavors were a big hit and I decided that I was going to partner up with a local dairy,” Tracy said. 


With an ice cream vendor secured, the next step was remodeling the building, a project that was done by Bissell Construction. The remodel included framing in the outside building around the existing patio, adding as many windows as possible to keep it “light and airy.” 


“I have window air for the summer, and can use patio heaters for the colder months.  Now people have the option to sit inside or outside depending on weather and bugs,” Tracy explained. 


Tracy also had two more windows cut on the original outside of the building so that people can see the gelato cooler and the flavors it offers. The gelato cooler presented its own set of challenges, which required Bissell Construction putting in a 4’ door so that the gelato cooler could fit into the building and it “took many hands and local help to get in the door.”  


With the challenges in getting the doors opened taken care of, the only one that remains is making sure there are enough flavors and options to please everyone, and with 35 currently, with plans to reach 40 while also looking to increase the types of bowls they offer, like adding Acai bowls with locally sourced granola and honey and fruit toppings,  as well as waffle bowls and other cookie bowls like sugar or snickerdoodle to accompany the already delicious brownie bowl. There are also plans in the future to add food items that can be “scooped,” like sloppy joes, pulled pork, walking tacos, and soup. 


“I am amazed how much ice cream we have gone through already and I love hearing stories about where people have come from,” Tracy said.


The opening of Scoop-abowl, by all accounts, was a successful weekend with a supportive community and it continues to be talked about positively on social media. Anyone interested in visiting the latest dessert destination and enjoying some of their favorite ice cream, gelato, or sorbet and sharing stories with Tracy can grab a scoop and a bowl between 11am and 9pm Thursday through Monday and see what a leap of faith can accomplish.  

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