Awesome Foundation Grant Award Winner: The Freez

Written by: Brandi Malarkey

“When a little kid comes up to the window and sees their cone and their eyes get all big—that’s my favorite part. I love that.” Jessica Malvin, co-owner of The Freez in Moorhead

Formerly the Tasty Freez, the Moorhead ice cream shop has been a community favorite, dispensing smiles and sweet treats alike. Since 1963. When the previous owner received an offer for the building, with the understanding that it would be demolished and an apartment built in its place, current Owners, Jessica Verdi and Jessica Malvin, knew they needed to step in

“We’re more than a community. Even the coworkers and regulars become a family. We get to know each other. I have a group that comes in every Tuesday night. When I got engaged, they were the first people I told,” continues Malvin. “When we heard about the offer, Jessica [Verdi] said we couldn’t let that happen. We didn’t want to see it go away. We wanted everyone to have the same happy memories that we did.”

Since purchasing the business in 2018, the co-owners have had no reason to doubt that their decision was the correct one, citing huge support from the community, especially after they were subjected to a break-in during the summer of 2020 resulting in significant damage. “We received so much encouragement and support. We have customers make a point to come on a rainy or snowy day, letting us know they really want us to be here.”

The name change from the former Tastee Freez to “The Freez” earlier this year is part of the co-owners efforts to ensure that The Freez remains an active and 100% locally owned part of the community.

“I’m in love with Moorhead,” laughs Malvin. “Moorhead is so supportive of art things and fun changes. Not being part of a franchise gives us room to explore fun and creative ideas. We can try different menu items, like an ice cream bar shaped like Minnesota, for part of the summer. Some of our employees are great artists who also have ideas. We want to work with the community and highlight different individuals when we can, while remaining the same great place for the community to come to.”

One of those ideas is a new mural to be installed on the east side of the building, facing the coming underpass. However, while the mural may be a brand-new addition to the establishment, it is important to note that the concept is firmly rooted in the past.

“The Freez means so much to me personally. I have a lot of connections to the building and place. My aunt worked here for many years and actually trained in the previous owner. My grandfather used to mow the lawn. The owner took a chance on me as a teenager, and I never left. I have been here over 20 years, and Jessica Verdi has been here longer than I have,” says Malvin. “Our past as a Tastee Freez is important to us. We want the mural to incorporate that, to incorporate our new branding of The Freez, and pay tribute to the former owner, Dr. Freez, who was such a big part of the building and who recently passed away.”

With the help of a $1000 gift from the Cass Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation, who named The Freez mural one of their two August grantees, the owners are now reaching out to local artists to begin the artist selection process. As development is affected by both the design process and the weather, the completion date for the new mural is currently undetermined, but is expected to be complete by the end of summer 2022 at the latest.

“This project is really important to us,” continues Malvin. “Our community is rich with diversity and long-standing traditions. We’re a part of that. Families meet and gather here. We want to give them a place to take pictures and remember their time here. We want it to reflect our history in Moorhead. And we want it to truly reflect how much we love being part of this community.”

Applications can be made at

The Cass Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation awards a $1,000 gift each month for awesome ideas of all sorts. Grant recipients do not need to be associated with a non profit.

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