Saturday, September 3, 2011

Main Street Stories: Knapp's Dairy Bar

Knapp's Dairy Bar at 304 S. Main Street has been in the same business - operated by the same family - from the very first day it opened its doors to the public. Lyle "Red" Knapp started in the restaurant business in Rochester in the 1930s, in a location that is now occupied by the Kruse & Muer on Main eatery. After that business was sold, Red and his wife, Cecelia, built their new dairy bar on a vacant lot next to the Home Bakery building.  They held the grand opening of their restaurant on July 8, 1950, and announced in the newspaper that they would hand out free ice cream cones to all customers, regardless of age, for a four hour period.  "We know we have the finest ice cream that money can buy and we want every person to taste it," Red Knapp told the Rochester Clarion. The dairy bar featured ice cream made by the Mints Ice Cream Company of Birmingham, and the Knapps hoped that the grand opening giveaway would hook their new Rochester customers on the sweet treat.

Not to be outdone, the Avon Dairy announced in the following week's Clarion that it had a new, exclusive formula ice cream called "Wood's Old Fashioned," sold only at the dairy bar located at 606 Woodward Street!

Over time, of course, it was the Knapps' signature hamburger that made their little restaurant locally famous and a favorite of generations of Rochester citizens - none of whom need to consult a menu before ordering at the counter, I might add!

If you're wondering who won the ice cream wars, I'll simply point out that 61 years later, Knapp's Dairy Bar is still in the same location and going strong.


  1. My first job as a high school student was upstairs in the accounts payable department at Mitzelfeld's. Naturally, Red Knapp's was always a popular lunch destination for those who didn't bag it, especially on account of their awesome burgers. While I wasn't as much of a regular there at that time, I recall stopping in for lunch there shortly after graduating college, with a friend to whom I'd been boasting about said burgers. While they were as delicious as I recalled them to be, I remember the sense of shell-shock at how hefty our tab was (big-mouth me offered to pay - and pay I did!) But then again, the burgers WERE awesome!

    John Mohr

  2. Knapp's burgers were a great treat. I have not ever found a place offering anything like them. Their unique flat buns came from the home bakery next door. Their malted shakes were premium, their spicy seasoned fries tops and their fish sandwiches were large like their burgers and used real whole fillets with a generous portion too boot. I have been gone for decades but I am glad to see it still in business.

  3. knapps sponsored our little league baseball team 60's hopped the train to town from the ball field after the game for ice cream win or lose,mostly lost ha ha. a friend of mine, his mom worked there. good times