The Comeback Kids: Brent Murray and Dairyhäus

Published: Aug. 20, 2022 at 8:17 PM CDT
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ROCKTON, Ill. (WIFR) - The Stateline is no stranger to local ice cream shops. One of those shops, Dairyhäus, is usually a popular choice and has been for almost 40 years. Our next Comeback Kid, Brent Murray is the mastermind behind the downtown Rockton shop. He talks with us about why he came back to run the shop and how he’s shaping new generations.

Ice cream being made in small batches and then scooped by hand is second nature to Murray. The Hononegah High School grad is back now in a different role at the shop than he was growing up. He says, “When I was young, my mom bought the shop. She bought Dairyhäus back in 1995. I was in eighth grade and my younger sister and I grew up within the shop throughout high school. You couldn’t imagine having a better job than working in an ice cream shop.”

While working there as a teen did have its perks, Brent says he had some growing up to do. So he left the shop, worked at various Best Buys and went away to learn more about himself. Speaking on his Best Buy experience, he adds, “I had some wonderful leaders and some horrible leaders within that company. But it ended up teaching me an absolute ton about who I wanted to be as a leader.”

After college, he came back to Rockton with an initial plan of teaching high school. But around that same time, his mom decided to retire. With that in mind, his journey changed and Dairyhäus became his destination again.

“Boom! I walked back into the shop and it was just magical. I think that the energy I felt within the shop was something I was missing from general retail. That connection with the customers, I just fell in love with it again,” Brent says.

He bought the shop from his mom in 2009 and enjoy the daily churn. But to him, the ice cream is just the cherry on top. He says, “The sense of community is really the primary reason why I do this. You have no idea how neat of a feeling it is to be putting on this party that everybody brings their families and their dates to. I get to watch it from the sidelines. It’s neat to be able to put that on for our community.”

If there’s anything more he can do for the community, he says he will do it no questions asked. That’s because it’s the people who keep him going each day. “There is just something about us where Rockfordians, Stateline people really just support each other, pats on the back and when times get tough over the last two and a half years, I think a lot of us have had really tough times. Man have we come together as a group, it’s just been incredible,” Brent says.

The shop now is walk-up window service, something Brent says was implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of his goals was to expand the shop’s footprint further into Rockford away from having tubs available in some local grocery stores. Murray is doing just that with his expanded partnership with the Rockford Roasting Company. Dairyhäus’s ice cream is now being served at Rockford Roasting Company’s location at the Embassy Suites in downtown Rockford.

He also tells 23 News that an eventual goal is to have a Dairyhäus food truck soon.

Dairyhäus is known for hiring locals each season with many staff members returning for multiple seasons. That’s something Brent is continuing from when his mom owned the shop.