By Brandi Makuski and Jacob Mathias
Early Friday morning the City Times published a brief article, “Belts’ Names Best Ice Cream Shop in State.”
Using only 130 words, we announced the website businessinsider.com had declared Belts’ Soft Serve the best ice cream shop in the state of Wisconsin.
Based on the reaction from readers, you’d think Stevens Point city offices were closing doors and relocating to Russia. What followed was a heated debate over whether Belts’ ice cream was really that good- or whether their soft serve could be considered “ice cream” at all.
To that we have to say, we’re kind of disappointed in our fellow Pointers.
The information used to rank Belts’ as “the best” was based on the level of social media activity via Foursquare. No one conducted an ice cream taste test to compare local ice cream shops, no public surveys were taken and no measure of product diversity, product quality or portion sizes were undertaken.
In short, it’s a non-vetted, unscientific, “just for funsies” study using only one metric- Foresquare- and therefore it has no real weight, like many of the “best of” lists declaring one city or another as the safest, nicest or best in which to live. The idea behind these so-called studies is to generate website traffic, and it works; each time Stevens Point or Plover has been ranked the “best of” something, local media outlets see a major spike in readership regardless of the methodology- or lack thereof- used in the study.
Belts’ has become a staple in this community not just because of its ice cream. Despite somewhat limited parking, abutment on a heavily-traveled Business 51 and long lines, the ice cream stand has maintained itself for 35 years.
But very likely, it is those long lines that are more of an advantage to Belts’. Not only is it more of an experience- as opposed to a simple business transaction of purchasing ice cream- families and friends can chat and run into acquaintances, all while posting their selfies all over social media.
Based on that, it’s easy to see how Belts’ is undoubtedly the most popular.
Every Pointer has waited in line with friends for a pistachio cone or a raw dog flurry at some point. We’re even crazy enough to sleep over night in 10 degree weather for our freezing cold treats. We’ve stood and patiently read the posters for guitar lessons and poetry readings while our dogs lapped at their own ice cream cones. We held hands on first dates with girlfriends and boyfriends trying really hard not to look silly eating a large cone.
Another item of note: this little recognition for something as simple as ice cream is putting Stevens Point on the map. The website that published this study has over 30 million daily readers- that’s 30 million people from around the world that will look at this silly little list of ice cream shops and say, “Stevens Point, Wisconsin is probably a pretty cool place.”
Stevens Point is truly a special community. It’s fantastic that we have something as institutional and for some of you, as controversial as Belts’. We need to take pride in and recognize that we have something that is the best. Some cities can only boast about being best at having a high crime rate or unemployment percentage.
We get ice cream. Not a bad deal.