DESTIN — One taste was all it took.
It was the turn of the century when newlyweds Wayne and Dee Chernicky took their first bite of Shake's Frozen Custard while on a road trip through Arkansas. It was with a cookie dough custard in hand when Dee turned to her husband and said, "This is it! I'm going to open a Shake's. This is the best ice cream I've ever had."
"I always wanted to have my own business," Dee said Wednesday as she sat with her husband in front of Shake's in Destin. "We drove down to Destin and on our way back home we just happened to pull off at this exit in Conway, Arkansas, and I saw a Shake's Frozen Custard. I had been asking him to move to Destin. Now we had a reason to move."
And, so they did.
On Nov. 25, 2001, Shake's Frozen Custard opened its doors on U.S. Highway 98 in Destin. The couple spent the next three years working 60-hour weeks, determined to keep the place afloat.
"Destin was so different when we first opened," Dee said. "In the wintertime there was no traffic. I don't even remember hearing the word 'snowbird.' There was no Destin Commons. People had no idea what frozen custard was; they thought it was pie filling. So we had a hurdle to overcome."
Nearly 18 years later, the Destin Shake's is now the No. 1 franchise location in the United States. It's also, according to Wayne, the oldest surviving ice cream shop in Destin.
Despite the continued success, however, the Chernickys decided this summer it was finally time to bid farewell to their beloved ice cream shop.
On Aug. 1, they sold Shake's in Destin to the Shake's corporation. Wayne said corporate plans to use the Destin Shake's as a main base for several other locations soon to be opened along the Emerald Coast. Wayne said the entire menu, including the red hot Chicago hot dogs the Chernickys added in 2010, is here to stay.
"We just decided it was time to start spending more time with ourselves," said Wayne, who owns several other businesses in real estate and oil and gas.
Dee plans to go full-time into ministry. Wayne hopes to spend more time in his airplanes.
While reflecting back on her years in business, Dee said she owes her success to tithing, the local community and returning tourists who made Shake's their yearly treat.
"It's hard leaving, for sure," she said. "Shake's gave me an opportunity to be a blessing to the tourism industry. It was an opportunity to serve a great product. We just love this area and the people in this community."
"It was an opportunity share our love for ice cream," Wayne added. "We'd do it again. We'd definitely do it again."