A Gun Lake tradition returns with a twist
The Curley Cone has been serving up sweet treats and good eats to the Gun Lake area since 1954. Now under new ownership, the Gun Lake tradition continues, with a twist. Founded as Kirk's Kurly Kones in 1954, the idyllic ice cream joint has served Gun Lake residents and visitors for generations. After some time in the big city, Barry County native Julie (Hawthorne) Fox has returned to Barry County with pride in her community and experience as a business owner. Growing up, Fox spent free time cruising downtown Hastings and exploring the Gun Lake area. So, it made sense to invest back into the communities that shaped her. She spent plenty of time at the old Curley Cone across from another icon, Joe’s Grocery, on Chief Noonday Road. Those memories appealed to Fox's nostalgia.
When a bank was poised to seize her beloved childhood ice cream shop, she felt she had to do something. “I love old businesses,” Fox said. “I love things that stand the test of time. I love the concept of owning something and it being passed on from one generation to the next and several generations loving it.”When it came down to it, Fox purchased the defunct ice cream shop for one simple reason.“I just didn't want to see it die,” she said. She purchased the business the day before bank repossession. She and her husband, Jim, got to work injecting new life into the Curley Cone. Appeals for year-round business started coming in from the community, so Fox decided to cash in on Curley Cone's potential and open the door year-round.
"Under the shadow of the Yankee Springs water tower, the Curley Cone has a new location just down the road from its 1954 birthplace."
Foxes have a passion for community improvement through business. They have purchased struggling business throughout the county in hopes of turning them into community-shapers. Under the Foxes’ management, a miniature golf course across the street will open next summer, and a camp in Hastings will open up for tourists visiting the area. Fox's mission invigorating faltering businesses is to draw tourists – and their money – to the community. She's purposefully designed her business model so that when her business flourishes, so do other businesses in the community. She's seen the model work in Hastings. When the canoe livery (started by her dad) is busy with 700-plus customers on a weekend, downtown Hastings thrives. She said she’s excited to apply the same business model for Gun Lake and Yankee Springs. “Our canoe livery is a destination location, and that's what we want here at the Curley Cone,” Fox said. “Whether you're from Delton or Grand Rapids or Hastings or Kalamazoo, you find out there's this cute place … and on the way is this beautiful drive to Gun Lake. Everything we do, we want to make Gun Lake a destination location, we want to bring people here.”
Gun Lake and the Yankee Springs area comprise Barry County's go-to destination for outdoor recreation. Tourists enjoy the up-north feel of Yankee Springs on their way to Gun Lake. Fox noticed that after a day hiking, biking or boating, many visitors want a one-stop shop open year-round to relax and unwind. In the summer, 1.5 million people visit Gun Lake, she said.“It's hard to find a place to go where you can take your family where it's fun and inviting,” she said.The new Curley Cone opened its doors in May. Already, things are looking up for the business, and for Gun Lake. While this isn't the only business in the area, it's cut from a different cloth compared to the typical seasonal ice cream shop. Businesses tend to focus entirely on summer customers, often overlooking an influx of wintertime skiers and ice fishermen looking for a hot cup of coffee and place to warm up. Fox said she wants to tap into Gun Lake's winter wonderland, opening the Curley Cone for business every day but Christmas.
Road Trippin' with WZZM 13 News!
We were excited to be showcased on WWMT Road Trippin'!
Watch our video and see all the new exciting things happening at the Cone - including our new expansion plans and the Cone's new bakery!