EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For the next stop of the West Michigan Scoops Tour, News 8 stopped at East Grand Rapids icon Jersey Junction.

The ice cream spot on Croswell Avenue in the Gaslight Village has a long history, first opened in 1963 by Doris “Chris” Van Allsburg. Her son, Chris Van Allsburg, went on to publish “The Polar Express.”

He donated a model of the Polar Express to the store, general manager Donna Duoibes said, and a second model runs around a track above the heads of customers ordering at Jersey Junction. The noisy train doesn’t run every day, but employees will happily send it down the tracks at a customer’s request.

When Jersey Junction first opened, it was primarily a fudge store. Now, it serves hard scoop ice cream, shakes, flurries and candy. Many customers who stop in remember working there themselves, Duoibes said.

 “Last summer we had a woman who used to work here when she was in high school,” she said. “… We actually brought her back behind the counter.”

She said the woman scooped some ice cream and met the staff.

Several Jersey Junction employees are students at East Grand Rapids High School just down the road. Duoibes — who grew up getting ice cream at the store — started at the ice cream store at age 16, when she was an East Grand Rapids High School student.

“It’s a very good place to learn these building skills such as multitasking, working under pressure as the line gets pretty long in the summer,” she said.

Jersey Junction in East Grand Rapids.
Jersey Junction in East Grand Rapids.

The current owners, Katie and Daniel Nugent, bought Jersey Junction in 2021, after moving to East Grand Rapids and having their first child.

“We decided that this was the next big step for us as a family,” Katie Nugent said. “We took it over with zero experience of ice cream or running a business. We really only knew just the history and being customers here. So it was exciting to dive in and do something that you don’t really know about.”

She said owning an ice cream store with such much history is “a lot to live up to.”

“That was one of the biggest things we were nervous about, is that there is such a reputation and such a nostalgic feel for this place,” she said. “We didn’t want to lose that.”

Jersey Junction in East Grand Rapids.
Jersey Junction in East Grand Rapids.

She and her husband have been intentional about keeping it the way it was. When they have to replace items in the store, they try to find the same one as before or get something that fits the store’s atmosphere.

When customers stop in — sometimes with their grandkids after growing up going there — many recognize the same benches or photos on the wall, Katie Nugent said.

“That makes us happy, especially being new owners. I’d say that when we hear those stories and they come in and they say, ‘Oh, it’s still feels the same. Your team feels just as excited, it’s old but new.’ That keeps us energized,” she said. 

The couple now has two kids of their own, and Katie Nugent said her daughter loves coming to Jersey Junction. She loves helping other families create memories of their own and the customers are what keeps her going.

“It’s like a step back in time. You walk in there and here’s old music playing and we have nostalgic candy,” she said. “It’s really just an environment where families come together and you can see core memories being made with them. So that’s something that makes us excited to be a part of and want to continue to do this every day.”