Tommy’s has officially closed for the season, but it’s staying put. Kiwanis members Delvin and Cammy Hackwith head up the project. Cammy says, “The popcorn stand is hard to move, and we are worried about the structure being compromised. So we won’t be moving it.”
That’s ok. They made a lot of children smile this summer with hot, buttered popcorn and a mountain of M&Ms and other treats. Popcorn is their best seller and candy is always a hit, but on the 4th of July, there’s no business like “sno business.” Cammy says, “Our busiest event day is July 4th, and sno-cones outsell popcorn. It’s something the kids especially love.”
Kids aren’t the only fans of Tommy’s, though. Cammy says, “The idea to sell sno-cones was introduced when we moved from Jack and Jill Park to Lake Farley in 2018. Leonard Stengel was our biggest cheerleader. Every evening we were open, he would ride his golf cart over to get a sno-cone. He became one of our best customers!”
The Kiwanis had taken over ownership of Tommy’s in 2017 as a project to serve the community and honor the legacy of Otto Wellnitz, aka “Tommy” who opened the stand in Milbank in 1963. If you do the math, that means many of the young customers today are the third generation. Hackwith says, “Although the popcorn stand is new to a lot of people, it’s really fun when people stop by and tell us about their experiences with Tommy’s while they were growing up in Milbank.” Its popularity seems to be fed by tradition, and Cammy says, “It now also serves as a gathering place for families and friends to come together and enjoy each other.”
The money collected goes back into stocking the stand, and the proceeds go to the community to support youth programs. Just to name a few, they have supported 4-H, FFA, extracurricular school groups, the ice skating rink, and helped to purchase a pitching machine for the baseball field.
The Kiwanis are pleased the stand empowers their group to give back to the community, and, in turn, they also appreciate the community’s support. Cammy says, “Many people donate well above the cost of their treats.”
Tommy’s might be taking a long winter’s nap this year, but rest assured, they will reopen in the spring. Cammy says. “We will open again the first weekend after school gets out.”
Photos: Top- Kiwanis members: Jody Kuper and Sue Stengel. Bottom- Cindy Krakow and Grandson Jayce Johnson