The Scoop on Where to Find Ice Cream in St. Croix Valley

by | Jun 2015

The handmade waffle cones at Selma’s in Afton can satisfy even the most creative sweet tooth craving.

The handmade waffle cones at Selma’s in Afton can satisfy even the most creative sweet tooth craving. Photos: Tate Carlson

In a world that’s transfixed by “the new” and “what’s trending,” there also seems to be a renewed interest in the nostalgic traditions that somehow withstand an ever-evolving popular culture. Of these traditions, one of the most adored is also one of the simplest joys of summer: a trip to the local ice cream shop. This particular tradition—rooted in family, community and some old-fashioned Americana—is here to stay.

We’ve scouted out the oldest ice cream shops in the area and learned their stories. This is not just a love letter to ice cream and the people who provide it; this is a cone-cheer to all the wondrous flavors the summer of 2015 has in store for us.

Here’s the scoop, so to speak.

Selma’s Ice Cream Parlor

The Classic: Zanzibar ice cream, made with three different kinds of cocoa.

The New: Bourbon Pecan Pie, bourbon ice cream with sea salt chocolate fudge ripple and roasted pecan.

After more than a century of serving delicious ice cream, Selma’s has delighted generations of ice cream lovers. Today, owner Becky Nickerson says boaters at the marina call frequently and request that [Selma’s] put off closing for just a little longer until they can get there. It’s harder to say whether Afton’s favorite little ice cream shop has a stronger history or a stronger following.

Through the Ages

It’s hard to imagine that Selma’s Parlour began as an early 19th century ammunition storage spot during the Civil War, but it is a fact that adds to the rich history of one of Minnesota’s oldest ice cream shops.

The long-standing success of the shop came to a halt in 2009. Selma’s was closed, shuttered and entering foreclosure, until one family—the Nickersons—came along and rewrote its future.


Today, Selma’s is everything you could want from a family-owned ice cream shop. “We were looking for something we could all do together,” says Becky Nickerson about her family. The Nickersons purchased Selma’s from CorTrust Bank in 2011 after it had been foreclosed. Becky, her husband Paul, and their six children, who range in age from 10 to 19, work together to maintain Selma’s charm, historical character and success.

At the “new and improved” Selma’s, in addition to ice cream and candy, customers can purchase espresso or coffee drinks. That’s a modern twist to a historical shop, with details such as a candy jars atop a front counter with the original walnut wood where customers have been served for years. The one thing that hasn’t changed over time? Patrons of all ages wearing ice cream-smudged smiles.

3419 St. Croix Trail South, Afton 651.436.5131 //

Nelson’s Ice Cream

At this famed Stillwater spot, finishing your mile-high ice cream cone is a rare feat. Despite the challenge—or perhaps, because of it—folks line up out the door to give it a try every day of Nelson’s Ice Cream’s open season.

Through the Ages

When Seven Corners grocery store opened its Stillwater location in 1923, owner John Lustig offered groceries, meats and ice cream made from the first pasteurized milk in the area. His successor, Art Nelson, assumed ownership in 1947 and renamed it Nelson’s Ice Cream, thus starting the store’s transformation. In 1964, after Nelson eventually passed the business down to his son, Wade, they began to offer customers large two-scoop cones for just 10 cents. It was the beginning of a local legacy. Bob Pasket and Chuck Kummeth took over Nelson’s for just more than a decade, continuing the tradition until 2006, but at the time, there lingered a threat of foreclosure. When Dave Najarian and Bill Bergstrom partnered together to buy Nelson’s in 2005, Najarian says he considered Nelson’s “as much of a landmark to Stillwater as the lift bridge.”


Najarian’s son, Daved Najarian Jr., became involved in the shop when he was a college student. He learned the business from his father and is now the owner and manager of Nelson’s newest location, which opened in St. Paul in 2014.

On any given summer night, the 92-year-old Stillwater building and parking lot area are crowded with ice cream lovers with eyes often much bigger than their stomachs. Dave Najarian says two of the best things about Nelson’s are the excitement surrounding the cones and the fact that “we love owning a business where everyone who comes in is in a great mood.”

The Classic: The stand-by combo: 1 scoop of cookies and cream, and 1 scoop of peppermint bon bon.

The New: Coffee, meet coconut: 1 scoop of coconut joy, 1 scoop of java chunk.

920 Olive St. W., Stillwater 651.430.1103 //

Sweet Spots

In addition to the area’s historical ice cream shops—Nelson’s and Selma’s—the following is a list of other sweet spots to visit this summer:

Leo’s Grill & Malt Shop
As the name suggests, Leo’s frozen treat of choice is the malt. If you like chocolate, try this 1950s-themed shop’s classic chocolate malt. And, if you love chocolate, go for the “Death by Chocolate” malt—the classic malt with Oreos and coffee flavoring mixed in and topped with whipped cream and a cherry. 131 Main St. S., Stillwater; 651.351.3943

Dairy Queen
It’s hard to beat a “DQ” trip on a hot summer day. If you’re looking for a deviation from that favorite treat you’ve enjoyed since childhood, here’s something new to try: the Cherry Breeze. It’s a cherry Mister Misty blended with soft serve vanilla ice cream. Both tart and sweet, it’s the best-kept secret you won’t find on the menu.
9 S. Second St., Hudson; 715.386.6326

It’s hard to go wrong with Culver’s legendary frozen vanilla custard. However, don’t miss the opportunity to ask, “What’s the flavor of the day?” If you’re lucky, you might get the chance to try blueberry cheesecake or orange creamsicle.
Stillwater Marketplace, 1725 Market Drive, Stillwater; 651.351.2989; and 151 Carmichael Road, Hudson; 715.386.3700

Cold Stone Creamery
It’s no wonder Cold Stone included “creamery” in its name because, when it comes to their ice cream, the smooth creaminess of its product has customers coming back time and again. If you can’t choose from the menu options, or can’t decide what to put in a creation of your own, try one of the most popular options—the Birthday Cake Remix: cake batter ice cream, rainbow sprinkles, brownie bits and fudge.
1005 Pearson Drive, Hudson; 715.381.9899


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