The year was 1958. Gas was 25 cents a gallon, stamps were three cents. Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” ruled the box office and Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers topped the music charts.
Meanwhile, an Anchorage banker acted on the somewhat implausible impulse that his neighbors would enjoy soft-serve ice cream and opened one of the first Tastee Freez restaurants in the then-territory of Alaska.
Sixty years and several owners later, that same Tastee Freez in Jewel Lake celebrates its 60th anniversary May 5 as the longest-running Tastee Freez restaurant in the state and one of the oldest in the country.
To mark the occasion, current franchise owner Rich Owens is selling Tastee Freez soft serve small cones on May 5 for the 1958 price of 15 cents each. Customers can order as many small vanilla or chocolate Cones as they want while enjoying face painting, door prize drawings, numerous games, an ice cream eating contest, a magician and other family-friendly activities from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the restaurant. Special guest introductions and welcome comments will begin at 11:30 a.m.
Andrew Kurka, a two-time Paralympian medalist from Palmer, Alaska, will be at the restaurant throughout the day to sign autographs, show off his gold and silver medals, and talk about his recent downhill, super-G and super-combined races at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games.
Owens is also offering a series of 60-cent anniversary deals through August including drinks, cones and french fries.
“Tastee Freez has become nothing short of an Anchorage tradition,” said Owens. “Our hope is that these anniversary offerings will bring back the same nostalgic family fun that has made us part of the Anchorage community for six decades.”
Leo S. Moranz and Harry Axene are credited with opening the first Tastee Freez in Joliet, Ill., in 1950, just eight years before Anchorage banker John Urban debuted the Anchorage restaurant for his mother.
The restaurant was owned by the Cluff family from 1962-1994, and was moved to its current Jewel Lake location in the Raspberry Center Mall before being purchased by Owens in 1994. Owens has since built it into largest Tastee Freez in the country, with indoor seating for 85 and an outdoor picnic area that can accommodate 65. He was selected as national operator of the year in 2006 and 2015.
Actively involved in the Anchorage community, Owens has partnered with the Alaska National Guard over the past 15 years to deliver ice cream sundaes to more than 60 villages across the state during the Christmas holidays. Along with mentoring students and young adults through the Anchorage School Business Partnerships program, he has provided first job opportunities to more than 500 teenagers over the past 24 years.
Tastee Freez Jewel Lake is located at 3901 Raspberry Road, on the corner of Jewel Lake and Raspberry Road. Restaurant hours are 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Tastee Freez is part of the Galardi Group, parent company to Wienerschnitzel and Hamburger Stand.