“My husband came home like at two o’clock in the morning,” Christina Springer recalls from early July. “He says, ‘Hon, do you want to open an ice cream shop?’

“I said, ‘Sure, let’s do it!!’”

When John Springer asked his wife, Christina, “Hon, do you want to open an ice cream shop?” she answered, “Sure, let’s do it!” | Photo: J. Adrian Wylie

John, who’s been a food concessionaire his entire adult life, glimpsed an opportunity in Saline when Mickey’s Dairy Twist, a local institution since 1994, announced plans to close.

The Springers learned of available retail space under the same roof as Baker’s Nook, just a five-minute walk from the sold Mickey’s building west of the Saline River on Michigan Ave. They signed a lease, struck a deal with Hershey Creamery Company, bought freezers and other equipment, and managed to open Christina’s Sweet Treats & More just two months after that late-night proposition, in early September.

She tells of her store and her story between serving customers with the practiced patience of a veteran of many a fair and festival, sprinkling “hon” and “sweetie” into her speech.

So far, most of Christina’s customers gravitate toward the variety of Hershey’s hand-scooped flavors, she reports, though newly added Dole Whips in pineapple and raspberry offer non-dairy refreshment.

The Springers, who live in Milan with their two-year-old son, have thus far managed the workload, with help from John’s sister, and they plan to stay open into January. Then they’ll install more of their food trailer assets from JR’s Concessions to expand the food offerings, which currently include variations of hot dogs, Polish sausage, and nachos, in addition to all the sundaes, shakes, soft serve, and other options familiar to ice cream parlor patrons.

“So we could actually put our hood vent in and do all that stuff, so when we open it this spring we’ll actually have our whole entire menu,” Christina anticipates. “I can have my elephant ears, my funnel cakes, my fries, I can have all of it here.”

She said they had considered making their own ice cream, but they’re excited about scooping out Hershey’s Ice Cream, a familiar name dating to 1894 (though not related to the Hershey Company chocolate manufacturer, beyond an old history of trademark disputes). The company provided equipment that made for a faster start-up, and Christina’s agreed to purchase and stock Hershey’s on a non-exclusive basis.

Enthusiastic and down-to-earth, Christina is undaunted by the curveball that broke just days after they signed their lease, that Mickey’s Dairy Twist would re-emerge nearby after all, giving Salinians two ice cream options on the west side of town after it first appeared they’d have none.

“But I’m not worried about it, because everybody needs the competition,” she says, “If they really want me, they’ll find me.”

When word came in late April that a longtime local favorite spot for homemade ice cream would soon close, and that Saline’s first cannabis dispensary was likely to take its place, the town buzzed at the cultural shift in the air.

For at least one Saline resident, the imminent unavailability of honey cinnamon pecan ice cream prompted a multi-quart stock-up before the front service window at Mickey’s Dairy Twist was lowered for good in June.

Mickey’s owner for the last five years, Bonnie McComb, had enlisted her son’s help to try to sell the business assets. They found no serious buyers even after closure, with the date to turn over the building fast approaching.

The twist in this Mickey’s tale then spirals around. The man who first brought Mickey’s to Saline as a branch of a now fifty-five-year-old family business, Pete Toarmina, advised former employee Armando Pacheco of the opportunity, and it was a fit.

Pacheco and his family run one of the twenty-five Toarmina’s Pizza franchises in Michigan, as well as their independent Paradise Mexican Restaurant, in the Parkside Plaza strip mall. They had space in Toarmina’s to add an ice cream parlor line, complete with the classic chrome tables, red leather chairs and stools, and sturdy outdoor picnic tables.

Pacheco’s daughter, Saray, appreciates how the Toarminas—including Pete and Laurie, their son Anthony, and his wife Stephanie—have helped smooth the transition in several ways, most notably by sharing the family’s original ice cream recipes and coming down from Traverse City for opening week, which began on Labor Day.

Four new part-time employees have joined the Pachecos’ trio of businesses with the ice-cream addition. New flavors, big screens above the ice cream counter, and year-round service are in the offing. 

Armando Pacheco concedes that business has generally been tough with the pandemic followed by cost inflation, but he’s grateful to the community and hopes the addition helps draw a critical mass of customers to the city’s west end.

“You gotta bring more business. Everything’s so expensive, it’s hard to make the money and pay the bills,” he admits, “So when I got to bring Mickey’s in here, there’s more life in this plaza, more cars, more people.”

And more hand-dipped waffle cones of honey cinnamon pecan.

Christina’s Sweet Treats & More, 901 W. Michigan Ave., ste. B. (734) 316–2790. Daily noon–9 p.m. facebook.com/christinassweet

Mickey’s Dairy Twist, 703 W. Michigan Ave. (734) 470–6253. Sun. & Fri. noon–9 p.m., Sat. noon–10 p.m. Closed Mon.–Thurs. facebook.com/mickeysdairytwist

Rock Paper Scissors Junior has new digs in downtown Saline. It has moved to Michigan Ave. next door to its parent, Rock Paper Scissors, a gift shop. Rock Paper Scissors Junior offers toys and gifts for the younger set. No word yet on the next tenant at its former space on S. Ann Arbor St.

Rock Paper Scissors Junior, 106 W. Michigan Ave. (734) 531–6264. Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–6 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Sun. & Mon. 11 a.m.–4 p.m. rockpaperscissorsshop.com