Kovener’s Korner celebrating 70 years in business; event set for Saturday


Driving along West Second Street in Seymour from May to September, there’s a good chance you will see people outside a small brick building with a yellow and white awning.

They either are in line to order a cone or cup of the famous chocolate malt soft serve ice cream or sitting at a picnic table enjoying a cool, refreshing treat.

Serving it up is an employee dedicated to providing good customer service and a quality product at an affordable price.

Those overseeing the operation of Kovener’s Korner said these are the reasons why it has thrived in the ice cream business for 70 years.

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“Of course, we believe it is the ice cream, especially our chocolate malt soft serve,” said Gary Kovener, co-owner with his brother, Rick Kovener.

“But it is also the nearly 100 employees, young and old, who have made the customer experience a good one,” Gary said. “For those first decades, the employees were generally older adults, but later, young people joined the store. These individuals have succeeded in making Kovener’s Korner a welcoming and delicious place to be.”

Nick Kovener, the director of operations, knows firsthand how the business provides leadership opportunities to teens and young adults. He started in his position in 2011 while attending Indiana University in Bloomington.

Growing up in Indianapolis, he said he never thought he would play that big of a role in the family business.

“I came down to visit my grandmother four or five times a year, and we would always stop. Superman (ice cream) was always my go-to thing growing up,” he said. “They gave me the opportunity to run it when I was in college and get that experience. It never crossed my mind until college when they brought it up, and I was like, ‘Oh really. That would be awesome. I would love to do it.'”

Now, he lives in Chicago, Illinois, and works full time as a senior financial analyst, and during the months Kovener’s Korner is open, he communicates daily with the store manager, Cecily Coffman.

“It has been great to have the experience of running my own business but then also being able to carry on the family tradition and just the impact that it has on the Seymour community,” he said.

On Saturday, Kovener’s Korner will host a 70-year anniversary event at the shop, 712 W. Second St. The free event from 2 to 6 p.m. is open to the public and will include live music, food and games.

There will be a 50/50 raffle with merchandise and gift cards from local Seymour businesses. The three baskets of items are worth $140 apiece. Proceeds will be given to the Community Foundation of Jackson County to place in the Jackson County Community Endowment. Raffle tickets may be purchased now at the shop: One for $3, two for $5 or five for $10. The winners will be drawn at 5 p.m. Saturday.

There also will be an ice cream eating contest for all ages at 4 p.m. Participants can sign up now at the store for one of two categories: 12 and younger or 13 and older. The cost is $3 to compete. Winners from each category will receive a Kovener’s Korner gift.

“It’s just a good opportunity to gather as a community and to thank all of our loyal customers but also provide a good community event to celebrate in the middle of the summer,” Nick said. “Come out and reminisce about the traditions of the past and also celebrate the future, 70 years, 100 years to come.”

The building that houses the ice cream shop started out as a three-pump Standard Oil gasoline station owned by Ben and Grace Shannon.

When the state road was relocated in the early 1930s, the station was converted into a convenience store selling break, milk and other goods.

Their daughter, Lena Faye, had been traveling the country with her husband, Bill Kovener, as he served with the Army Air Corps during World War II.

After they returned to Seymour in 1949, they opened Kovener’s Korner, one of the city’s first drive-in restaurants.

Ever since then, local residents have frequented the shop for ice cream, milkshakes, floats, sundaes and other treats.

Lena Faye came up with the chocolate malt recipe that is still used today.

“Chocolate malt has really been our calling card,” Nick said. “It’s the right blend of malt and chocolate. If you get a malt, they are really thick, but this is light but still has the malt taste, and it has a really good creamy texture and aftertaste to it.”

Nick said the mix from Prairie Farms has the homemade recipe added to it.

As far as giving the recipe away, that won’t happen. Nick said the employees sign a confidentiality agreement to ensure it doesn’t get out.

“Every time we make a batch, the manager prepares it in-store,” he said. “To make it homemade, we add extra ingredients, and that’s where it goes back to the same recipe as (the start of the business). We wouldn’t want to move away from something that is so popular and everyone loves so much.”

While the business is known for the chocolate malt, Nick said the most popular request is the twist cone with chocolate malt and vanilla soft serve. The store also has several flavors of Prairie Farms hand-dipped ice cream.

Besides the quality product, Nick said Kovener’s Korner prides itself on friendly service.

“I know we’ve had probably a couple hundred different young adults work here over the 70 years,” he said. “I view it as a great growth opportunity for them to come in and kind of get more out of their first job. It actually gives them a little bit of ownership. You’re representing the business, and you can see the impact it has on the community and get that additional leadership responsibility they might not get somewhere else.”

Nick said there’s an average of 12 employees each year, and most are between 14 and early 20s.

Coffman said she started working there six years ago. She’s now 20 and going to Indiana University, where she is studying to get a job in pharmaceutical sales and minoring in marketing.

“It pushed me ahead of all of my friends because they all didn’t start until they were 16, 17,” she said. “I got a lot of experience, and it has helped me to be able to be in this position that I am right now.”

Coffman said she likes spending her summers working at the ice cream shop.

“Everyone is so nice here,” she said. “All of the customers, the people of Seymour, the people I work with, everyone is just so friendly. It’s an easy-going job, and it’s something fun for the summer.”

Kovener’s Korner also has made an impact on the community by sponsoring youth baseball teams and donating to various organizations.

“We’re just trying to give back to the community as much as they’ve given to us by supporting us for 70 years,” Nick said. “It wouldn’t be possible without everybody coming and supporting it, all of those great customers and the goodwill we’ve built over the years.”

The Kovener family cherishes the stories they have heard from customers over the years.

Nick said the highlights are families walking there after dinner or on the way home from the city pool and Seymour native and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp stopping by.

Gary said he once saw a car with out-of-state license plates drive by and heard the passenger exclaim, “It’s still here!” Another time, he overheard a father standing in line with his son telling him, “This is where I ate ice cream when I was your age.”

Recently, a successful businesswoman who works for Ford Motor Company told him, “I grew up just around the corner from Kovener’s Korner and enjoyed every summer day walking to get ice cream.”

“We are proud that this bond to Seymour is enabled by Kovener’s Korner. I certainly puff out my chest when someone asks if I know of Kovener’s Korner in Seymour, Indiana,” said Gary, who now lives in Illinois.

“Over the last 70 years, those of us of a certain age have watched Seymour grow in businesses and population, and yet, the city retains a sense of a Midwest small town,” he said. “This is due in part to the small businesses that remain when the large chain stores have appeared. I believe that Kovener’s Korner provides a touchstone to home for thousands of current and former residents.”

For the business to keep going for another 70 years, Nick said it will take hard work and friendly service from the employees, loyalty from the customers and quality products.

“We wouldn’t be here without all of the hard work of the kids, and then the community and all of our customers,” he said.

Gary expects the business to keep thriving, too.

“The store will adapt to new technologies and new social media structures that I cannot envision 20 years from now, and yet, it must maintain that bond to the past that is the memories of customers,” he said. “We certainly did not see today’s society and technologies in 1949, but Kovener’s Korner is here today. I am confident Kovener’s Korner will remain a part of Seymour for a very long time to come.”

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What: 70-year celebration

When: 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Kovener’s Korner, 712 W. Second St., Seymour

Cost: Free

Details: Live music, food, games, 50/50 raffle baskets (tickets may be purchased now at the shop: One for $3, two for $5 or five for $10), ice cream eating contest for all ages at 4 p.m. (sign up now at the store for one of two categories: 12 and younger or 13 and older; the cost is $3 to compete)

Information: Call 812-522-9259, visit kovenerskorner.com or search for Kovener’s Korner on Facebook


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