On Monday — one of those in-between Northwest summer days where the sun is shining, but it’s still somehow overcast — the line at Theno’s Dairy was all the way to the sliding glass door.
That’s not an unusual sight at the family-owned ice cream parlor, which has been in business since 1944. A long line of eager customers is almost as much a fixture for Theno’s as the life-size fake cow that sits near the door.
Founded by the Theno family, the business was bought by the Bloors in 1990. Former owner Sandy Bloor began working at Theno’s scooping ice cream in the early ’80s, and her husband ran the milk processing plant. Now, Sandy’s son Doug owns the business, and she helps out where she can.
“(I’m) the person that can’t be fired, 'cause my son owns it,” she said. “Job security.”
The Bloors have kept the feel of a family business going, Bloor said. It helped that during their time working there, they became integrated with the Thenos.
“They were like grandparents to my kids,” she said. “It was just a natural step for us to take.”
Although there’s no longer a dairy on the premises, Theno’s still features ice cream made on site, with a stable of rotating flavors that usually includes one special seasonal variety. Right now, it’s cantaloupe, strawberry rhubarb just ended and coming up — the most popular flavor of all, Bloor says — is pumpkin ice cream, beginning in October.
The pumpkin ice cream is a big event. Leading up to its availability, there’s a countdown held on the dairy’s “trusty little reader board” that culminates in a midnight release, which the dairy has held for the last four years, Bloor said.
“It’s kind of a whole different atmosphere in the middle of the night,” she said.
If staying up until midnight for ice cream sounds a little crazy, then you probably haven’t tried Theno’s pumpkin ice cream. The seasonal flavors are always a welcome departure from tired old chocolate or vanilla, and the fruity tang of my cup of cantaloupe on that sort-of-sunny Monday was just enough to push the day into full-fledged summer territory.
Jeff Crawford and Sheila O’Brien were also enjoying the ice cream on Monday. Crawford lived in the area in the ’90s and would visit Theno’s with his kids. He recently moved back and returned for the first time.
“It’s kind of one of those iconic places in the area,” he said.
He was having rainbow sherbet; she was eating cappuccino chocolate chip.
“It’s good,” Crawford said.
“It’s really good,” O’Brien countered.
Even a partly sunny day is good for business, but with the extra rainy climate of the past two summers, things have been a little tough, Bloor said.
“Rain affects the business,” she said. “Rain is our worst enemy.”
She laughed, knowing how ridiculous that kind of proclamation is in the Pacific Northwest.
Even so, more than 60 years later, Theno’s remains a destination for a cup or cone. The dairy counts plenty of regulars among its clientele, Bloor said.
“I had kids coming in here who are now adults and married and bringing their kids in,” she said. “They go, ‘You’re still here?’”
Theno’s Dairy is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday.