Downtown Frozen Flurry Fight
Ramone’s vs. Olson’s
Break out the malt balls, fire up the waffle maker and undo the belt it’s time to answer the age old question (since May 2019) as to which downtown ice cream shoppe should own the hearts (and paychecks) of Eau Clairians. Ramone’s got a head start in the summer of 2017, tickling the tongues of whimsical millennials and Gen Zers with their straight out of the trolley-car era brand. Then came the news this last winter that Olson’s was bringing their talents to downtown, an announcement that brought smiles to those tired of spending $10 on gasoline for a $9 ice cream in Chippewa Falls.
At first, online pundits such as your aunt and local tech college marketing instructors with social media presences proclaimed Olson’s the winner before they even opened their doors. However, summer has gone by and the preseason prognostications may have been off.
The Hungry Italian and Mrs. Hungry Italian decided to settle the debate by going on an “ice cream crawl” in which we visited each place on the same night.
Ice Cream: Winner – Ramone’s: We will start with the most controversial take and that is the ice cream served at Ramone’s is superior to that at Olson’s. We will pause while you fling crushed nuts and broken off waffle cones at us. Yes, Ramone’s ice cream comes from Madison while Olson’s makes their own. To the Hungry Italian, it doesn’t matter. If anything, the “Chocolate Shoppe” brand Ramone’s sells is harder to find at grocery stores in town than Olson’s making it even more of treat.
Not only that, it just tastes better. Don’t put words in our mouth though. Olson’s is still yummy but a selection must be made and it goes to Ramone’s.
Service: Winner – Ramone’s: On the evening of our crawl we walked into an empty Olson’s with just a single family ahead of us in line. While one worker took that family’s order the rest of the employees stood around. It took more than three minutes for us to place an order (again, the place was empty). Compare that to Ramone’s where the line was out the door yet the wait was less than five minutes. The Ramone’s staff is right on top of everything with no worker pausing.
Location: Winner - Olson’s : Ramone’s has the quaint building but its hard to compete with Olson’s location in the heart of Eau Claire’s tiny city center. There is a cosmopolitan feel to where Olson’s is and it fits with that block. Perception is key and it just feels easier to get to Olson’s even though parking is actually easier near Ramone’s.
Seating: Winner – Olson’s – Ramone’s doesn’t have any minus a small table inside and a patio that seems to be in a constant state of renovation. Olson’s has a nice layout to it, making it a welcoming environment to sit down and relax. This is despite the use of video screens to play self-promotional things (ala Culvers) which is tacky and makes one feel like they don’t want you to hang around (playing soundless news stations or sports gives that impression). The trick in restaurants is the business wants to “turn and burn” tables without making their customers feel rushed.
Décor: Winner - Ramone’s: Its hard to compete against the smell, brick lined walls and soda fountain flair of Ramone’s. Olson’s deserves credit for going in a more modern approach and it looks fun and vibrant on the inside but again this isn’t even a debate. Olson’s had lost before they opened their doors on this one.
Miscellaneous: Winner – Olson's Olson’s is much more than ice cream and while its place in the area’s coffee shop scene isn’t cemented yet, one could see it becoming another downtown hub for business meetings ala ECDC and Shift. Olson’s also feels much more year-round than Ramone’s which has closed over the winter in the past and a lack of interior seating makes a December visit unappealing. The ability for Olson’s to be year-round may be a huge factor come next spring.
Final Bite: In the end, Ramone’s gets the nod. The superior ice cream, service and décor coupled with a community presence which is growing make them the winner. Of course, this is a tasty debate and one that likely (and hopefully) will be an annual thing for years to come. If one place ultimately fails, then no one actually wins. Competition is great for the consumer and while Ramone’s wins this year who knows what Olson’s may do to shift the tide next summer.