Ice cream sales sizzle with a hot summer
TRI-COUNTY AREA—Want to do something cool on a hot day? Most people don’t need to be asked twice. Once a dessert reserved for rulers and royalty, record amounts of frozen desserts—soft-serve, hard scoops and gelato, frozen yogurt, sherbet and all the meltingly sweet and delicious ways these can be combined—have been handed across the coolers to area customers this summer. Like their customers, the owners of ice cream emporiums are smiling too.
“We’ve had one of our busiest summers, because of the heat,” says Tiffany Trombley, one of the owners of Seneca Farms Ice Cream on Lake Road in Penn Yan. “We’ve had to make more ice cream than most years.” Mint chocolate chip and peanut butter chip ice creams are often in the churns, and peanut-butter custard is the most popular soft-serve, Trombley reports.
Ice cream shops often develop a fan-base of enthusiastic customers who return regularly. One memorable annual group from New Jersey has a group photo taken with the owners and staff at Seneca Farms. Then, endorsing the old rhyme, “We all scream for ice cream,” Trombley says, “They scream and holler when they get their ice cream dipped in a hard-candy shell.”
At Mr. Twistee’s on Main Street in Dresden, owner Sharon Perrotto notes the ice cream stand serves the carriage trade as well as those who arrive in cars, bicycles and on foot. “We have some regulars who come down with horse and buggy, a lot of local camps even have the kids walk. I wouldn’t want to walk up the steep hill, but anything’s worth the ice cream,” she says.
One day this summer about 70 people on bicycles stopped; another day they had a flock of motorcycles. And then there are the regulars. “We’ve got our die-hards who like the cappuccino, mints, coconut-chocolate-almond, peanut butter caramel, cookie dough, moose tracks,” Perrotto says. “And Dresden has some big lovers of banana splits—every Sunday there’s a big banana split outing.” Once last year, a man asked for a special addition to a sundae and quietly handed a diamond ring through the window.
They’ve also noticed a daily trend for more evening ice-cream customers than middle-of-the-day ones. “But after the sun sets and people get off the water, there’s a heavy traffic flow through the ice cream business,” she says.
“I think some people even come up and have ice cream for dinner rather than turning on their ovens,” adds Barb Perrotto. One of her personal favorites is the “Penn Yan Twist,” orange Italian ice and blue raspberry sherbet. “We do it so people can get ready for going back to school,” she says. “It’s kind of cute watching it go out the window. I’m addicted, and some of my employees are addicted.” Mr. Twistee’s closes the Tuesday after Labor Day, re-opening in April.
At Mac’s Dairy Bar & Mini Golf on Route 14A near Penn Yan, owner Bill Berg says the summer has been “as pretty close to ideal as you can get. Tourism’s been good, Saturdays when the Windmill is open are always good days, but we have a good local base too. They’re the people who keep us in business.”
Berg emphasizes their soft-serve is ice cream, not custard; they also make their own soft-serve sherbet, changing flavors week to week. Mint chocolate chip, peanut butter cup and moose tracks are popular flavors but soft-serve chocolate and vanilla are by far the most popular. “Vanilla is used for sundaes,” Berg explains. “And we have a lot of sundaes you might not get anyplace else.”
His employees are invited to create their own combinations of ice creams and sundaes to share with customers. Some creations made him laugh, declining to name them; others like the “Peanut Butter Grand Slam” and the “Peppermint Patty,” turned out to be popular keepers.
Unlike many seasonal ice cream places, the Crooked Lake Ice Cream Parlor on Shethar Street in Hammondsport is open all year for breakfast and lunch as well as ice cream. John Jensen, one of the owners, says, “We were busy this summer. We had a lot of people, but I’m not sure how the numbers compared to last year.”
Among his customers are tourists attracted to the old-fashioned style who come in for sundaes and floats, as well as locals and summer people who become regulars while they’re at their cottages.
This year, lots of kids went for “Superhero,” a bubble-gum flavored ice cream with a lot of colors; adults favored Rocky Mountain Raspberry, white chocolate with dark chocolate flakes and swirls of raspberry.
Nearby, also on Shethar Street, Robin Locey recently opened Locey’s Landing, a coffee house and restaurant where Seneca Farms ice cream is also served. “I opened right in the middle of crazy season,” she says, laughing. “We ran out of everything the first week—that’s what you do when you’ve just opened and you don’t know what to expect! But it’s been a good thee weeks.”
Jim Cain, owner of Tobe’s Bake Shop on Fourth and Decatur Streets in Watkins Glen, says he’s overjoyed with how well the ice-cream end of his business did this year, even out-selling the donuts.
“Without a doubt,” he says with satisfaction. “This is our third year selling ice cream, our major break year on doing it again. Next year we’ll install another machine.”
Tobe’s location near the park makes the shop popular with concert-goers on Tuesday evenings and when nearby churches sponsor concerts in the park. “Think mint chocolate chip crossed with brownies,” Cain says, explaining his year’s hottest flavor, Grasshopper Pie.
Long range weather forecasts suggest slightly higher than average temperatures through much of September. In other words, the great ice cream weather will continue just a little longer.