Scoop! Social to reminisce about Reed’s Ice Cream

The Reed’s Ice Cream on Forest Avenue was the place to see and be seen Saturday nights in the 1930s. Photo: Des Moines Heritage Trust

Writer: Michael Morain

Remember the Nutty Fudge Sauce from Reed’s Ice Cream?

If you grew up in Des Moines back in the day, you probably do. Reed’s had dozens of shops across the city, where you could order a loose-meat Reedburger and a scoop or two of old-fashioned ice cream like butter brickle, tutti frutti or a red velvet concoction called Devil Roll.

That famous sauce, drizzled over fresh vanilla ice cream from Pints by Beth, is one of two good reasons to go to an ice cream social 1-3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27, at the Des Moines Heritage Center at the old depot in the East Village. The second reason is an illustrated history lesson about Reed’s and other local ice cream companies, which will play on a PowerPoint loop throughout the event.

Organizer Pat Meiners with the Des Moines Heritage Trust remembers biking with her siblings to the main Reed’s location at 2016 Forest Ave., just east of Drake University. After the Heritage Trust posted a Facebook note about Reed’s that prompted a lovefest on social media, the group decided to host an actual social.

Jay Reed started the family business in 1910 in Sigourney, Iowa, before branching out to Iowa Falls and Webster City. He moved to Des Moines in 1922 and set up shop at 19th and Clark streets before moving in 1936 to the bigger building on Forest Avenue, which could produce 500 gallons of ice cream every hour. The facility expanded in 1945 to churn out enough ice cream for three dozen Reed’s bungalows and, later, 14 larger Reed’s Super Shops. In its heyday, the frozen empire had outposts across Iowa and Omaha.

The last local shop, in Beaverdale, marked its 60th anniversary in 1997 before new owners turned it into the B&B Cafe. It reopened for a few years as a restaurant called Reed’s Hollow, which closed in 2019.

While Meiners researched the company’s history, she also tracked down the Nutty Fudge Sauce recipe. One clue came from a Reed family member, who mentioned online that the pecans should be roasted.

Meiners passed the long-lost recipe to Beth Mensing of Pints by Beth, who is whipping up a batch for Aug. 27 in the run-up to her brick-and-mortar opening later this year in Highland Park. When dsm caught a whiff of the story and emailed her for the ingredients, her reply was swift: “Haha!! I’ll tell you after the event.”

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