It’s been a long time since I’ve had an Oreo Twister from Tasty Twist, but when my little brother suggested a trip to that little soft-serve ice cream shop that’s been an East Lansing standby since 1960, my dad and I didn’t hesitate. Tasty Twist is just where you go. You go there after football games, choir performances, tough exams. You go there to see kids in soccer clothes, men in business suits, teenage girls swinging purses, middle-aged couples with children. You can barely read the menu, but it doesn’t matter because you know what you want anyway– you’ve known for your whole life, because Tasty Twist has always been there, cramped in its little building where the gangly guy from my high school cross-country team who slung ice cream cones there looked permanently stooped over, all summer long.
Then, in total sketchiness, the people who owned the Tasty Twist building as well as the gas station nearby decided to terminate their lease to Tasty Twist’s owners, suggesting they planned to expand the gas station. Instead, they opened another ice cream shop– subtly called Tasty Treat (oh please)– even going so far as to imitate the font and the sign color!
We East Lansing natives are nothing if not loyal. A Facebook Page sprang up. A t-shirt (“Tasty Twist: Accept No Imposter”) went on the market. Tasty Twist moved a few doors down and opened again for business. And of course, nobody goes to Tasty Treat. Tonight, for example, the line at the new Tasty Twist stretched out the door…
…but the parking lot at Tasty Treat was empty. My dad swerved in so I could take a picture– “This is so mean!” he cackled. “They’re going to think they finally have a customer, but we’re just taking a picture of their empty parking lot!”– and we couldn’t even see any employees, until we drove around the back and noticed someone sitting slumped against the wall, texting.
Customers have stayed loyal, but the old Tasty Twist location was undeniably better than its new one. Aesthetically speaking, I’m not sure why; it was just a huge parking lot with some cement benches and a big cement wall where people always sat and ate their ice cream. At the new location, my dad pointed to a grassy patch and said, “Look, there’s plenty of seating– we can go sit on that grassy knoll.” My brother and I broke out laughing. “Dad, Tasty Twist isn’t supposed to have a grassy knoll,” I said. “It’s just supposed to be a parking lot.”
“…That thin cement wall that they have right there splitting their parking lot with the bank’s parking lot, that’s where we used to sit,” said Jordan Jackson, an East Lansing native quoted in the aforementioned State News article. “‘Everyone used to say, ‘Why don’t we go skip (class), sit on the wall and eat some Tasty Twist?’”
I hear you, Jordan– we don’t know each other, but obviously not much has changed since I went to East Lansing High School.
People are doing their best. Customers crowd around the new Tasty Twist and sit awkwardly on the little cement bars in the parking lot. It’s no wall, but it’ll do, and it’s a heck of a lot better than going to Tasty Treat.
As my little brother says, every time you go to Tasty Twist, you’re bound to run into somebody you know, and tonight was no exception. Within minutes, my dad and brother were exchanging pleasantries with a family they knew from my brother’s soccer years. When we mentioned Tasty Treat, the mother leaned in conspiratorially and rolled her eyes. “We drive past there sometimes,” she told us, “just to make sure nobody’s there. Anybody who is there has to be from out of town.”
As tonight’s empty lot suggested, though, maybe even the out-of-towners are learning to stay away. Just as well!