Best Ice Cream
If you don’t believe that an old-fashioned ice cream, candy and fudge store can make your day better, then you haven’t been to Kilwins.
Step into the Landmark Center Building at Main and Broad streets in downtown Lake Geneva and let the sweet aroma waft away your cares.
“We want people feel better when they walk out than they did when they walked in,” says store director R. Jay Morgan, who has worked for Kilwins for 18 years— the last four of which were spent in Lake Geneva.
While Lake Geneva has a reputation as a vacation town, Kilwins prides itself on being a “crucial part” of the community, Morgan says. The store maintains evening hours outside the busy season between Memorial Day and Labor Day and closes only on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Kilwins draws town residents and vacationers of all ages, from toddlers to adults.
Ice cream might leap to mind when thinking of Kilwins, but the small-batch, super-premium treat did not debut there until 1985. When Don and Katy Kilwin purchased a bakery in Petoskey, Michigan in 1947, they were focused exclusively on their high-quality baked goods and candy. Fudge followed the next year.
Today, the “Original Recipe” ice cream is available only in Kilwins stores. Choosing from among more than 40 flavors displayed inside the glass-fronted freezers is nearly impossible, which means that return trips are a necessity. Sea Salt Caramel and Toasted Coconut top the list of patrons’ favorites, Morgan notes.
A close second to ice cream in terms of attractions is their fudge. When a Kilwins employee takes a wooden paddle to the warm mixture in an old copper pot and then pours the creamy goodness onto a marble slab for shaping and cutting, crowds gather to witness the process.
“People love watching the fudge get made,” Morgan says. “We make it year-round and have a hard time keeping up.”
The only thing better than watching fudge being made is biting into the smooth, Mackinac Island-style product. Morgan reveals, the classic chocolate and sea salt caramel are customer favorites.
Kilwins handcrafts 75 varieties of candies and treats in Petoskey. Displayed in rich wood cabinetry throughout the store, the dark, milk, and white chocolate goodies make delicious gifts and are especially popular as corporate gift orders at Christmas. Seasonal treats also find their way into Christmas stockings and Easter baskets. Morgan mentions that pecan tuttles and almond toffee crunch are their top sellers in terms of candy, but some other popular treats include peanut brittle, caramel apples and chocolate-dipped pretzels.
Although the Lake Geneva shop is one of 150 Kilwins locations spread across 25 states and the District of Columbia, it still exudes the character of a family business – for good reason. The same family has owned the store for nearly three decades. Pat Dickinson and her husband purchased the Lake Geneva franchise in 1993, and their daughter Brenda was a Kilwins employee in high school, even before her parents owned the store. When her mother retired in 2017, Brenda and her husband Kurt Ripkey took over.
The Petoskey-based company asks that its franchise owners and employees “treat others as you want to be treated, do your best and have fun.”
For Morgan, the goal of each day at Kilwins is simple.
“We want to make you happy,” he says.
Location: 772 W. Main St., Lake Geneva, WI
kilwins.com | 262-248-4400
Photos by Matt Haas