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Dairy Inn, St. Petersburg’s historic ice cream shop, has closed

The business may be relocating.
 
The exterior of Dairy Inn on Nov. 30, 2023.
The exterior of Dairy Inn on Nov. 30, 2023. [ GABRIELLE CALISE | Times ]
Published Nov. 30, 2023|Updated Dec. 1, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG — Dairy Inn, a beloved Crescent Lake landmark and soft serve shop, appears to be no more. But there may be hope for ice cream fans.

The Dairy Inn Instagram account bio now reads, “Relocating. Look forward to updates.” The most recent photo on the account, a cartoon drawing of a cow, was shared Thursday morning with no caption.

On Thursday morning, the building at 1201 Dr M.L. King Jr. St. N. appeared to be gutted. All of the equipment inside was gone, as well as the outdoor umbrellas and Dairy Inn sign. The only evidence left of the spot’s sweet past was the chalk menu with hot dog and milkshake offerings.

The Times reached owner Paul R. Johnson, who declined to comment at this time.

The interior of Dairy Inn as photographed on Nov. 30, 2023.
The interior of Dairy Inn as photographed on Nov. 30, 2023. [ GABRIELLE CALISE | Times ]
The Dairy Inn sign has been taken down, as shown in this photo taken Nov. 30, 2023. The ice cream shop at 1201 Dr M.L.K. Jr St N in St. Petersburg said on Instagram that it is moving.
The Dairy Inn sign has been taken down, as shown in this photo taken Nov. 30, 2023. The ice cream shop at 1201 Dr M.L.K. Jr St N in St. Petersburg said on Instagram that it is moving. [ GABRIELLE CALISE | Times ]
The only remaining sign of the past at Dairy Inn is this chalkboard menu. Everything else, from the signage to the umbrellas by the outdoor picnic tables, has been removed.
The only remaining sign of the past at Dairy Inn is this chalkboard menu. Everything else, from the signage to the umbrellas by the outdoor picnic tables, has been removed. [ GABRIELLE CALISE | Times ]

The window-service eatery debuted in 1947 as a Dairy Queen, according to Times archives. The name was changed in 1969, “after new owners took over and didn’t want to pay DQ’s franchise fee.”

Dairy Inn once served a vast menu that included hamburgers, pulled pork sandwiches, beignets, egg creams and cheese-smothered tater tots. It was a place for community gatherings and events like hot dog eating contests. In 2013, Dairy Inn catered the opening reception for an ice cream-inspired art show at Blue Lucy, a gallery owned by Chad Mize and Phillip Clark.

DIRK SHADD   |   Times
The Dairy Inn, 1201 Dr M.L.K. Jr St N, in St. Petersburg, on Wednesday, May 29, 2019.
DIRK SHADD | Times The Dairy Inn, 1201 Dr M.L.K. Jr St N, in St. Petersburg, on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. [ SHADD, DIRK | Tampa Bay Times ]

Johnson and his wife, Beth, took over the business in 2015, according to public records. In recent years, the new owners tightened the menu to focus on the classics: soft serve, milkshakes and hot dogs. The couple also owns Old Farmer’s Creamery on Fourth Street North in St. Petersburg.

The ice cream shop had been under renovations this year. Owners started work on the roof and added new umbrellas for the picnic tables. They also put the iconic sign back over the marquee, which featured a cone piled high with vanilla soft serve. During the work, owners had posted signs thanking patrons for their patience during the remodel. Those signs, too, are gone now.

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