The People’s Champ

Tuesday, July 19, 2022
(Sentinel Photos by Kim Fickett) Wells Enterprises CEO Mike Wells, Wells Visitor Center & Ice Cream Parlor Senior Manager Shannon Rodenburg, and Wells Vice President of Demand Operations Adam Baumgartner, hold up the People’s Choice Award filled with Bunny Tracks ice cream following the presentation of the trophy by Iowa Tourism and Iowa Economic Development Authority officials Jessica O’Riley and Katie Kenne on Tuesday morning.

LE MARS — What better way for Wells Visitor Center & Ice Cream Parlor to celebrate National Ice Cream Month than with a trophy honoring them as the People’s Choice Award winner by the Iowa Tourism Office.

It was in April during the Iowa Tourism Conference that it was announced they had earned the nod not only as The People’s Choice winner but also receiving the Outstanding Dining Business Award in the metro category.

It was on Tuesday, when Katie Kenne, outreach and engagement coordinator with the Iowa Tourism Office, part of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, was on hand to present the trophy to Wells officials.

Kenne began her presentation citing a portion of Wells Visitor Center & Ice Cream Parlor’s Senior Manager Shannon Rodenburg’s nomination letter.

“The City of Le Mars, Iowa is making its transition from hidden gem to a well known regional destination due largely in part to the Wells Visitor Center & Ice Cream Parlor. This sweet pocket in northwest Iowa known to many as the Ice Cream Capital of the World, has a population of just over 10,000. The City of Le Mars welcomes just over 200,000 visitors from all over the country and world each year and most, if not all, come to visit the Wells Visitor Center & Ice Cream Parlor.

“A pillar of the Le Mars community since 2000, the Wells Visitor Center & Ice Cream Parlor embodies the sweet and friendly spirit of locals while educating visitors on the history of Wells Enterprises, Inc., home of Blue Bunny, and the second largest frozen treats manufacturer in the United States.

“Since its $4 million renovation in 2019, the Wells Visitor Center has refocused efforts on the attraction and promotion of its two story interactive eating experience and the role it plays in the acquisition of visitors to Le Mars Main Street.

“Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, the sales trajectory of the Wells Visitor Center has only moved upward with fiscal year 2021, delivering its best sales year on record and profits six times higher than 2017. On top of the sales, over 1,200 ice cream desserts were provided to group travelers in 2021 signaling the Visitor Center’s importance in appealing to and acquiring busses, schools and other travel groups to the area.

“On behalf of Travel Iowa, we would like to recognize the Wells Visitor Center & Ice Cream Parlor as the 2021 People’s Choice winner,” Kenne concluded.

As Kenne presented the trophy to Wells CEO Mike Wells, Wells took to the podium to address those in attendance.

“Thank you so very much,” Wells said of the honor. “The renovation was one of the best investments we’ve had an opportunity to make. I say that because it isn’t just about Wells, right? You see every day in the headlines what we’re doing at our facilities, how we’re hiring more people and how we’re growing the company. This particular investment was really about an investment in the community.”

Rodenburg said she was thrilled to learn of the honor.

“To be recognized by not only the state for excellence in tourism, but also by industry partners and peers, is an honor. It’s a true testament to all the work being done at the Wells Visitor Center and in Le Mars to position the Ice Cream Capital of the World as a must-see-and-visit destination,” Rodenburg said.

For Wells he said to be amongst the company who have previously received the award is truly a honor.

“When you look on this there’s a pretty prestigious list of folks over the previous years. To be on that level and be the People’s Choice, I don’t think there’s a higher honor for us. On behalf of Wells, on behalf of our company, and the community, thank you so much for the recognition and for this award,” Wells concluded.

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