WINCHESTER — “No. No.”
Those were the only words Winchester resident Joe Sturdivant could muster when he learned his favorite ice cream stand, Pack’s Dairy Corner at 177 Dairy Corner Place, will be closing permanently at the end of the week.
Business owner Melanie Van de Riet of Chantilly did not respond to a request for comment, but Assistant Manager Channel Wright said the shutdown is due to the landowner’s desire to sell the building off Berryville Pike (Va. 7) east of Winchester, where Dairy Corner has operated since 1957.
According to Frederick County tax records, 177 Dairy Corner Place is owned by E and L One LLC, an entity established by Ernest F. Smith Jr. of Broadway and Linda Camper of Rutherfordton, N.C. Smith and Camper, the children of ice cream stand founders Ernest and Viola Smith, could not be reached for comment.
The elder Smiths operated the Dairy Corner ice cream stand until 1986, when they leased the operation to Bill and Ginny Pack. The Packs’ daughter, Van de Riet, took over operations when her parents retired.
As of 9:30 p.m. Sunday, for the first time in 62 years, there will no longer be a Dairy Corner ice cream stand on Dairy Corner Place.
Employee Mary Lock said there are no plans to reopen the business in a new location, but Van de Riet hasn’t ruled it out.
“She’s leaving it up to God,” Lock said.
Pack’s Dairy Corner is as popular today as ever. Lock said the ice cream stand, a local landmark with a retro vibe, serves up to 800 people on a typical day, “and even more on a Sunday. Those are really busy.”
“We come here every summer,” customer Crystle Eicke of Winchester said on Saturday. “We love the different flavors of the week and coming here as a family.”
The stand has become a traditional gathering spot not just for customers, but employees, too. The Packs and Van de Riet were known for treating their staff like family and often gave job opportunities to high school and college students.
“All three of my children have worked here,” Lock said.
Wright said her nephew worked there as well, and her niece, a college student, is the current manager.
When asked how customers were responding to the news of the ice cream stand’s imminent closure, Wright said, “Everyone is very sad. People are grabbing their grandkids and getting here to have one last cone. It’s emotional for a lot of the community.”
“I’m hearing from a lot of people who had been to this place when they were children,” Lock said. “This has just been the place to come.”
Samantha Roberts of Sterling said she took all three of her children to Pack’s Dairy Corner for their first taste of ice cream. On Saturday, she said, “We came out to visit friends and take one last trip to Pack’s.”
Seven-year-old Chloe McCloud of Martinsburg, W.Va., was enjoying a cup of her favorite flavor of ice cream, vanilla, with her brother, Oliver McCloud, and their mother, Fay McCloud.
“We came down here for one last hoorah,” Fay McCloud said.
“I’ve been coming here since I was 4 or 5,” said Sturdivant, who is now 31 and “heartbroken” by the ice cream stand’s closure.
Anyone who wants one last sweet treat from Pack’s Dairy Corner needs to stop by any day this week from noon to 9:30 p.m. The business will close its doors permanently on Sunday night.
There will still be places near Winchester to get Pack’s ice cream, though. Stands that utilize the family’s exclusive recipes are located at 2580 Northwestern Pike (U.S. 50) and 2021 North Frederick Pike.
As for whether Pack’s Dairy Corner may eventually resurface in a new home, Wright said, “We don’t know what the future holds, but anything’s possible.”