Dakota Drug, in the tiny town of Stanley, North Dakota, is home to one of the last operational Whirla-Whips in the United States. A small company started manufacturing this retro ice cream machine—which blends sweet additives such as peanut butter or candy into existing frozen flavors—in the 1930s. The Whirla-Whip was a predecessor to the tech that would later produce popular treats such as Dairy Queen’s Blizzards, but it never quite took off. While the devices have disappeared from most soda-fountain shelves, a few remain scattered across the country.
Most machines designed for making blended ice cream treats (such as McFlurries or Blizzards) rely on soft serve, but the Whirla-Whip maintains its distinction by transforming hard ice cream into soft serve, made to order. Soda jerks were meant to add mix-ins and hard ice cream to the Whirla-Whip to transform the concoction into a customized novelty for diners.
Dakota Drug has used its Whirla-Whip to churn out hard ice cream blends since 1949. Originally named People’s Drug in 1911, this time capsule of a store remains a fully operational pharmacy on one side, and soda fountain on the other. Customers pick from vanilla, chocolate, or rainbow sherbet as a base, then choose from an array of mix-ins for their Whirla-Whip blend. Options include everything from the classic (think fresh fruit, peanut butter, and Oreos) to dill pickles and bacon bits.
In recent years, Dakota Drug has received attention for its steadfast use of the nostalgic ice cream mixer. Visitors to the shop have event included the creator of the Whirla-Whip, who bought ice cream for his children in 1994. Apparently, they’d never tried anything made using their father’s invention before.
Know Before You Go
Rumor has it that the pharmacy keeps its old, nonfunctional Whirla-Whip machines in the basement and you can see them if you ask nicely. The store is open weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m, Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and closed on Sunday.
There is also a Whirla-Whip machine in Girard, Illinois, which starts with soft serve instead of hard ice cream.