Hear Tracy Briggs narrate this story:
FARGO — Long before Norm took up residence on his barstool in “Cheers,” Fargo’s Dutch Maid was the place where “everybody knew your name.”
The mom and pop restaurant was a favorite place for families, students and high school sweethearts to grab a burger and a malt, for little more than pocket change. It was the kind of place where regulars would come in and order “the usual” and the waitresses knew exactly what to bring.
“We got to know everyone, not by their names, but by their orders,” said Dorothy Barlow, who worked at Dutch Maid in the early ‘70s. “We’d be walking down the street and someone would say ‘Hi.’ My husband would ask ‘Who is that?’ I’d say, ‘Oh, that’s two eggs and bacon.’”
It was a quaint small town café in the heart of a medium-sized city, and to this day, people who lived in Fargo-Moorhead over the last 50 or 60 years, recall how good they felt when they were there.
In fact, when InForum asked readers to share their feelings about the place on Facebook, Dutch Maid was treated like Beyoncé at the Grammys: accolades all the way around.
"One of my Dad’s favorites - burgers, onion rings, malts! Great memories there!"
— Deb Schaeffer on Dutch Maid Grill and Dairy Store
- They had great breakfasts and great malts! They gave you the silver container with the extra malt in it that didn't fit in the glass - Cathy Martin
- Best breakfasts ever! Sure miss that place! - Bruce Eckre
- We LOVED the hot beef sandwiches! Brings back great memories! - Cindy Collins Selstedt
- I loved going there because they were the only place I could get black licorice ice cream - Ken Williams
But many people proclaiming their love of Dutch Maid ice cream, burgers and shakes might not even know its full story. For much of the 20th century, Dutch Maid was doing more than serving sweet treats to satisfied customers, it delivered the goods in more ways than one.
7 things you might not have known about Dutch Maid:
Born in The Great Depression
Dutch Maid was born in 1933, often considered one of the most difficult years in U.S. history. As the Great Depression raged and farmers all over the nation endured drought, two brothers-in-law from Fargo, Cyril Crawford and Ralph Brandmeyer, looking for a bright spot, secured a copyright for the “Dutch Maid Ice Cream Company.”
More locations than you thought
The most well known Dutch Maid location was at 13 Eighth Street South, where Nichole’s Fine Pastry is now, and it still lives on (kind of). Owner Nichole Hensen told The Forum when they moved in, she found old Dutch Maid menus in the basement, and they still have an old, rounded mirror you can see in old photos back in the day.
Dutch Maid also had a second location less than one mile away, on the 500 block of Broadway north. Then in the 1940s, a Moorhead location near what is now Wells Fargo Bank on Center Avenue opened up. But that’s not all. In the earliest days, the brothers-in-law owned three stores in Madison, Wis., and they also put up a summer shop in Detroit Lakes.
They once delivered milk to 2,000 homes
Many people like Mary Fitzgerald remember that in addition to nibbling on a cone or sipping a malt, you could carry out half-gallon boxes of ice cream from the store.
“My parents would stop there after church and get a box or two. They had so many flavors, it was hard to decide,” she said.
However, for a time following World War II, Dutch Maid was also in the milk delivery business. In 1948, they began pasteurizing and packaging milk at the North Star plant in Fergus Falls to eventually deliver to around 2,000 customers in Fargo-Moorhead, including markets, schools and hotels. A 1951 story in The Forum proclaimed, Dutch Maid was living up to its slogan “Fargo-Moorhead’s Fastest Growing Dairy.”
That same Forum story boasted that Dutch Maid was delivering its milk in state-of-the-art, new packaging, “a sanitary carton instead of a bottle.”
Dutch Maid’s milk delivery ended in 1957, when Brandmeyer and Crawford sold their milk distribution to Fergus Dairy in Fergus Falls, Minn.
It was a little cafe with the big heart
One of the neat things about the Dutch Maid back in the day was the diverse clientele. Because of its downtown locations, it attracted bank presidents and physicians, as well as students from nearby Moler Barber College and Dakota Business College. But Duane and Carol Rogne, who owned the restaurant from 1965 to 1977, would also feed people who didn't always have the means to pay.
"You'd see them around the area and kind of get to know them," Carol Rogne said, "We got to be a really big family."
In fact, Carol says Duane, who died eight years ago, would always attend the funerals for some of their less fortunate customers.
"I always respected him for that," she said.
One time waitress Paula Hichert said it was a welcoming place to everyone.
“There was one guy that came in three times a day and had the hamburger deluxe each meal,” Hichert said, “It took me a while to figure out it was the only photo on the menu and he couldn't read. After that, we talked him into changing it up every once in a while.”
They provided food to the Fargo jail
While some commenters said they had Dutch Maid cater their parties, (chicken, mashed potatoes, vegetables and ice cream for a 25th anniversary party. “It was good,” said Sue Meyers) in 1966 Dutch Maid won the contract to feed inmates at the Fargo jail. They provided breakfast for 65 cents, lunch for 75 cents and dinner for 85 cents per person.
The '80s weren't awesome
Carol Rogne says the restaurant was pretty busy in the late '60s and early '70s, and the crowds would come in waves.
"First, we'd see the city guys, then the garbage men, then the postal workers, then the B.N. workers," she said. "About 10, we'd get the Dakota Business students coming in for coffee. We had to pace ourselves."
However, times were changing. Ownership of the Dutch Maid changed hands a couple of times over the decades. The historic block was renovated, but that didn’t stop the business from faltering. By the 1980s, more chain, fine dining and ethnic restaurants started competing for people's dining dollars. By 1991, Dutch Maid was out of business.
A place for bribery and romance
While Dutch Maid no longer exists, no one can take away the memories made there. Plenty of kids probably remember it as a place where rewards were reaped.
"I remember my mom hauling myself and my three brothers to the (nearby) Moler Barber College (for haircuts.) We would get a treat at Dutch Maid if we all behaved well," Mark Colliton said. Collliton swears he was always good enough to earn a double scoop.
For Linda Hill Hove, Dutch Maid was actually part of her love story.
“When I was going to NDSU, my date, now husband, would take me there for ice cream. Then, when we were looking at engagement rings, after every visit to the jewelry stores, I would get a red rose and a trip to Dutch Maid for ice cream.”
To read more Facebook comments about the Dutch Maid, go to InForum's Facebook page and look at the post from February 18 or type "Dutch Maid" in the search bar.
The complete Dutch Maid Menu - 1966
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