Chillo opens up in Traer

Traer Chamber of Commerce members joined Chillo owner Doug Eilderts for a ribbon cutting at the reopened ice cream shop and eatery on Second Street in Traer. Pictured, from left, Michelle Podhajsky, Kris Whitmore, Doug Eilderts, Lisa Eikamp, Jenn Payne and Meghan Renslow. Photo provided

Just six months removed from taking over the Hometown Foods grocery store operation in Traer, business owners Doug and Jill Eilderts have continued their investment in the northern Tama County community by purchasing the Sweets on Main ice cream shop in downtown Traer.

Sweets on Main was bought by another couple, Pam and Mark Douglas, in late 2016. The Douglases completed extensive renovations on the nearly 150-year old building and opened Sweets on Main in 2018 where they served ice cream, coffee and a lunch menu.

The business closed in 2020 while the COVID-19 pandemic was at work altering the landscape of the hospitality industry throughout the country.

The Eilderts saw an opportunity to take a turnkey business and pick up where Sweets on Main had left off.

“We loved the building and the concept of the place from day one,” Doug Eilderts said.

Chillo will offer their own brand of ice cream for sale by the pint or quart. Pint varieties will also be for sale at Hometown Foods in Traer and in Waterloo.

The Waterloo couple took ownership in late 2020 and will carry on the eatery while looking to rent out the finished two-bedroom apartment in the upstairs of the building.

The business has been renamed and rebranded as Chillo Ice Cream & Eats, although local customers will find a familiar atmosphere when they come to visit.

The retro diner decor, as well as the seating and floor plan, will remain relatively unchanged and offer visitors an interesting and comfortable atmosphere.

Chillo officially opened on Feb. 5 and Eilderts said their opening weekend crowd was steady and encouraging to see.

The menu at Chillo will be fundamentally similar to Sweets on Main, but with a few small differences.

Ice cream will still be the feature product and a lunch menu will still be available with burgers, sandwiches and salads.

Chillo offers homemade premium grade ice cream and Eilderts said they look to focus on selling a wide variety of Chillo brand ice cream in pints and quarts, while maintaining a selection of 10-12 standard flavors that will be available by the scoop.

Eilderts said the most popular flavors during Chillo’s opening week were Almond Joy, cake batter, cookies and cream and Andes mint. He hopes to develop some signature Chillo flavors down the road.

The Eilderts also plan to use their Hometown Foods grocery stores in Traer and Waterloo as retail outlets for Chillo brand ice cream. They plan to price their ice cream at $4.99 per pint, which will keep them competitive against established national brands like Ben & Jerry’s.

“Doug and Jill understand the importance of a small town grocery store and on top of that have invested even more into our community by giving life to another Main Street business that recently closed,” Traer Chamber of Commerce President Kris Whitmore said. “I have heard nothing but positive feedback about Chillo from many people in the community.”

Chillo plans to welcome back Tiffany Douglas who previously worked at Sweets on Main to run the kitchen. Eilderts said he hopes to begin offering the lunch menu within the coming weeks.

They will start by offering tenderloins, burgers and sandwiches, fried appetizers, salads and of course ice cream. The drink menu will feature pop, shakes and Chillo brand coffee.

Eilderts has already heard feedback from folks interested in Chillo offering a breakfast menu as well as lunch. He said the hope is to grow the business enough to allow for a breakfast menu, though sales and support of the business from the community will be needed to make that kind expansion a reality.

Chillo will also feature the outdoor patio venue to the east of the ice cream shop. Eilderts is hopeful that once pandemic conditions allow, the downtown shop can be a gathering place for a variety events.

For the time being, the restaurant will continue to follow CDC health guidelines and will require masks and social distancing for employees and patrons as well as abiding by the recommended cleaning and sanitizing schedule.

Chillo Ice Cream & Eats is now open at 542 2nd St. in Traer. Hours of operation are Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can reach Chillo at (319) 478-0014 or on Facebook at Chillo Ice Cream & Eats.