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Houlton family purchases Selma's in Afton

Becky and Paul Nickerson, of Houlton, have bought Selma's Ice Cream Parlour and plan to open it this spring. The Nickersons' six children will work as the ice cream scoopers. Photo by Amber Kispert-Smith

Minnesota's oldest ice cream shop will be up and running once again this spring -- with a family feel.

Becky and Paul Nickerson, of Houlton, have bought Selma's Ice Cream Parlour in Afton. The closing date is expected to be Dec. 1 -- if not sooner.

"We heard about Selma's and the tradition there and saw it as tremendous opportunity to be part of a great community and a real landmark," Paul Nickerson said. "It was a shame to not see it open."

The Nickersons said they did not want to comment on the selling price until after the closing date, but they did say it was lower than the $299,000 asking price.

The Nickersons said they are hoping to have Selma's up and running no later than May 1.

The 3,000-square-foot property has been on the market since the winter of 2010 and has sat vacant since 2009.

Selma's went into foreclosure after former owner Chet Kurtz filed for bankruptcy. It was bought by CorTrust Bank at a sheriff's sale for $746,612. CorTrust Bank, based in Mitchell, S.D., has a branch in Woodbury, Minn.


Selma's has been a staple in Afton since the 1930s when Selma and Eddie Holberg opened its doors for business.

Since Selma's Ice Cream Parlour served its first scoop it has become a tradition for many.

"We like the history behind it and the community," Becky Nickerson said. "It's a real warm environment."

The business has transferred hands over the years after the Holbergs sold the restaurant in the 1950s.

Laine McGee bought the restaurant in 1980 and owned it until 2007 when she sold it to local businessman Joe Farrington. That same year the business was sold to Kurtz who added panino sandwiches to the space.

New owner

Selma's Ice Cream Parlour will mark the Nickersons' first journey into the world of ice cream. However, Becky Nickerson has experience working in restaurants and Paul Nickerson grew up working at his family's grocery store.

Becky Nickerson said they decided to try their hand at ice cream because the property was so appealing and it would be a great opportunity for their family.

The Nickersons' six children will work as the ice cream scoopers.

"It would be a great place for our family to spend time together," she said. "One of my favorite quotes is from former owner Laine McGee. She said she never had a bad day at Selma's."

Paul Nickerson said he hopes the shop will stay in the family.

"Our intention is to buy it and treat it as a family run business like it's always been," he said. "It's a great opportunity for (the children) to learn."

The Nickersons said they are hoping to keep Selma's the way it always has been -- a small-town, old-time ice cream parlor.

"We haven't been here long enough to really remember Selma's," Becky Nickerson said.

"But, we have a lot of friends and neighbors who immediately smile when you say the name -- we've heard a lot of great stories about it.

"What we're really interested in doing is maintaining the tradition and keep being able to provide those -- we really want to preserve that."

The Nickersons are even hoping to stick with Selma's original ice cream vendor -- Brown's, even though it has technically become Kemps now.

Paul Nickerson said it is unknown at this point how much renovation is needed to the restaurant. However, he did say they want to maintain the outdoor patio.

"We do want it to be open and be in line with the ice cream shop it was in the past," he said. "But beyond that...once we get in there we'll get a plan in place."

The Nickersons said they are really excited about bringing back Selma's because so many of those old-time, small-town ice cream parlors are being lost.

"It just takes you back to a much simpler time," Becky Nickerson said. "Times are going by so fast, so these ice cream parlors just let you stop and enjoy yourself."

Paul Nickerson said he is excited to know that they were able to save Minnesota's oldest ice cream parlor so it won't be lost.

"To have the claim to the oldest ice cream parlor in Minnesota is pretty amazing," he said. "There's no better opportunity to have that chance to walk down memory lane on a nice summer night."