When we think of the dog days of summer, ice cream treats are among the first things that come to mind. And a favorite go-to is The Stand; a deep rooted Waynedale tradition, having served our community for 18 years.
In 2003, two long-time Waynedale residents and friends, Michael Palmer and Skip Sandels, were motivated to start a local restaurant that served coney dogs and ice cream in Fort Wayne. During a family trip to Florida, Skip’s son, Scot, thought about the commonality of an ice cream stand and a hot dog stand and hence was born the name. The Stand opened its doors on April 30, 2004. Co-owner, Skip, shared that the octagonal building design was inspired by the old Dawson’s Hot Dog Stand on the corner of Rudisill Blvd and S. Anthony.
General manager, Ryan Palmer, is extremely proud of their growth over the last 10 years. “We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for all of our past and present employees. We have doubled our staff since 2012. Over 90% of our employees are involved in extracurricular activities at their school which we wholeheartedly encourage.”
Co-owner, Mike Palmer, agrees stating, “We are only as good as our employees” as he fondly recalled one employee who started as a freshman and stayed through graduate school. Skip added that they had four children from the same family who were all employees at The Stand. It was evident that all three men are proud of their staff and give the credit where it is aptly due.
One way they recognize their employees is by pooling the accrued tips, renting a bus and taking their staff to Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH for a fun filled day at the end of the season.
The typical season at The Stand begins on March 1st and runs through mid-October. You might think the four months off would be well deserved down time. Instead, they’ve wisely used it to paint, replace flooring and shelving and do general upkeep on a building that is typically packed with 10 – 12 employees during busy times.
Skip and Mike are hands on owners. Each have their own niche of responsibilities. Mike makes the top secret coney sauce, seasoned beef, and homemade coleslaw. Skip, although he still is working as a barber, is the maintenance guru and helps maintain the property. When something breaks, they put out the call for Skip. Mike says laughingly, “We help make it run and stay out of their way!”
All three Stand principal players live in Waynedale and attended schools in the area. Skip went to Saint John the Baptist growing up while Mike and Ryan both attended St. Therese. The three men graduated from Bishop Luers where Mike and Skip met their wives. Skip is married to Pam and they have four children and six grandkids. Mike and wife Lisa are parents to five kids with three grandchildren. Both families are active members of St. Therese Catholic church.
Ryan shares his family’s love of sports. Both Mike and Pam are long time coaches and he has followed suit, coaching football at Bishop Luers for the past 11 years. Prior to that, he coached for the feeder program JAT for four years.
The menu at The Stand is robust with 26 different styles of hot dogs and even more ice cream treats: from floats to milkshakes, slushies to lemon shakeups, and wipeouts to vegan sundaes. They earned the number one ice cream spot in Fort Wayne according to a June Visit Fort Wayne blog.
The Stand’s large playground area was created in memory of LeighAnn Palmer who passed away just shy of her 4th birthday in 1995. To ensure LeighAnn’s beautiful life was remembered, the Palmer’s worked to establish a memorial at Avalon Pool. In 1999 family and friends worked to raise the necessary funds to build the memorial, which would come to be in the form a playground on her ninth birthday, June 24, 2000.
Sadly, in January 2020, Avalon Pool announced they were closing. The Palmer family did not want to see the playground torn down. Their solution was to move the playground to The Stand Coneys & Ice Cream. A large covered pavilion next to the playground encourages parents to visit while supervising their children at play.
The Palmers also established the LeighAnn Marie Palmer Foundation in 1996. The foundation hosted an annual golf outing for 15 years (until LeighAnn would have graduated high school) and raised over $10,000 each year for scholarships at St. Therese Catholic School for an 8th grade girl who would be attending Bishop Luers and for a Senior cheerleader at Bishop Luers to help with her college tuition. The annual golf outings resumed again about three years ago.
The Stand management has always been strong supporters of anything Waynedale related. They were vendors in the Taste of Waynedale and generously donated hot dogs to the annual Waynedale Community Picnic. They are SHOP Waynedale participants and also supported the Walk in Waynedale. The Stand sponsors a baseball team at Foster Park as well as the Player of the Week for Sluggers.
Ryan, Mike, and Skip are working hard to continue the momentum they’ve built with their dream. And with all the menu options and the family friendly setting, it’s an easy one for all of us to support. My dilemma? Choosing between a Boston cooler or brownie bomb to chase my Waynedale Hot Dog!