The signs of summer in Science Hill: Hearing the crack of the bat and loud cheers from the ballpark. An empty parking lot at the school. And a long line and good smells coming from the Dairy Mart.
The Dairy Mart is an institution in the northern Pulaski County community, operating for over half a century now. It stands at the corner of Ky. 635 and Ky. 1247, just below the railroad tracks as one enters downtown Science Hill proper. It's gone through several owners over the years, but for the last seven, it's belonged to a familiar name in this county: Barty Bullock, the former judge-executive, as well as his wife Joyce.
"My husband just wanted it for a long time and thought it would be a good business," said Joyce. "When it came up for sale, he wanted it, and it was at a good price."
The Bullocks were no stranger to the art of selling food to the community, having owned several groceries over time, including the Valley View Supermarket there in Science Hill. But there was another line of work they knew that made the drive-up restaurant a serendipitous fit.
"We have a dairy farm," said Joyce. "We milk cows.
"I've done both at the same time," she added of the Dairy Mart and the dairy production. "I got up at 5 a.m. and went to the barn. My son and I both would come over here and run the Dairy Mart together."
But then son Christopher got a job at the post office and left the Dairy Mart in Joyce and Barty's hands. It's an honor and a privilege for them to serve the community at such a long-beloved eatery, however.
"(People) just know the Dairy Mart is here," she said. "It's been open for some time. We open and close at the same time every year."
Since the Dairy Mart is an outdoor affair -- you stand in line at the window, and can take your food back to the car or to a shaded outdoor patio to eat -- cold weather months aren't really its thing. The restaurant opens at the beginning of April -- just this past Monday was its first day for 2019 -- and closes again at the end of September.
In that span of time, it draws all sorts of people out to its humble lot. Joyce noted hungry young athletes from the Science Hill Ball Park truck on over after a game to fill their bellies. People wanting to escape the office on a nice day, the mom taking her tot out for a treat, or older kids hanging out after school or during their break are frequently seen hovering over the ordering window.
Of course, while there are plenty of fried goodies, hamburgers, and desserts available at the Dairy Mart, just as there have always been, the Bullocks wanted to put their own spin on it too.
"We started serving baskets that I made," said Joyce. "Homemade potato salad and cole slaw, baked beans. We make our own chili sauce."
Joyce also said the restaurant can do "just about any kind of sandwich you want" -- with the qualifier, "We don't do pizza, but just about any other kind of sandwich."
But Dairy Mart gets its name from the sweet treats one gets to cool down on a hot day -- ice cream, milkshakes. The works. Favorites include chocolate, strawberry, peanut butter -- "We do real peanut butter," said Joyce -- and banana, which also includes 100 percent real fruit.
Now that the Dairy Mart is open for another season, Joyce expects to see plenty of familiar faces around one of the community's most familiar places -- just as its been for more than 50 years.
"When we open, people are waiting -- they're ready for a different flavor of food," said Joyce. "People come from Somerset, they come from the drug store, from Kentucky Lumber. People even come from different restaurants."