Big Dipper Ice Cream opened Friday in downtown Billings, delighting customers seeking a sweet treat in the sunny weather.
“I will drive downtown for this ice cream, and I live 20 minutes away,” said West End physical therapist Jessica Sebastian, who enjoyed a lemon, yellow cake and cardamom waffle cone with children Sage and Colter.
About a half dozen people stood in front of the shop prior to its 11 a.m. opening.
Founder Charlie Beaton and longtime manager Bryan Hickey, of Missoula, announced last summer they would open a third shop in Billings at 100 N. Broadway in the Stapleton Building, most recently home to the Marcasa clothing shop.
Marcasa owner Jeremiah Young designed the white-tiled shop, which has the feel of an old-time ice cream parlor with a modern twist.
“We really wanted to take our time and do it right. We’re happy to be the only new ice cream shop in downtown Billings,” said Hickey, who lives in Missoula.
Big Dipper serves 20 to 25 flavors of premium, high butterfat ice cream made on site. The Missoula shop first opened in 1995 and later expanded with a franchise in Helena.
In Billings, Big Dipper will serve locally inspired flavors, including a Street Fight Red beer ice cream. It’s made from the nonalcoholic wort, or liquid extracted from the mash used to make beer at Angry Hank’s downtown. Another special is the Caramel Cookie Waffle flavor.
The shop will remain open year-round from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The winter hours help attract more customers to the brand during the off-season, Hickey said.
The Big Dipper in Billings is co-owned by Hickey and Beaton. Lia Munson is general manager and part owner of the Billings store.
An official ribbon-cutting and grand opening are planned for next Friday.
On Friday, Billings students were off for Easter break, so some headed to Big Dipper to sample the ice cream.
Jason Hewitt, 16, ordered a vanilla and Reese’s Little Dipper sundae, which he proclaimed “awesome.” He hit the shop with friends Morgan Chesmore, 18, and Sasha Parker, 17.
The three normally like going to Softies for ice cream, but they said Big Dipper is closer to home so they’ll be back.
“We found out when it opened and wanted to be the first ones here,” Hewitt said.
Hickey said he’s excited about the reception both from customers and other downtown businesses. He said he hopes people will come downtown for dinner or lunch, then stop by Big Dipper for dessert.
“It seems like downtown is becoming a restaurant destination. … It’s becoming a mecca for eateries,”
Downtown has two other speciality dessert shops, Mad Cupcakes and Velvet Cravings. Another dessert shop, Le Lustre, is planning to open across from the Northern Hotel on First Avenue North.
Wilcoxson’s is at 114 N. 19th St. but only sells ice cream in containers, not in cones, dishes or sundaes.
Other ice cream shops, including Softies, Baskin-Robbins and Coldstone Creamery, are on Billings’ West End. Baskin-Robbins also has a Heights location.
Dairy Queen has five locations in Billings and Lockwood.