went out on a limb last winter and never closed. For the first time,
the 210 W. Seneca Turnpike shop kept serving ice cream through the cold
months, and employee Dan Sorber is glad they did.
“As fall came to a close our customers
kept asking us to stay open,” he says, “and they continued to be sad
about our possible closing. So we thought about it, talked about it as
a team, and we stayed open. It just made sense.”
The experiment was such a success that
Sorber says they won’t shutter the ice cream business again. Of course,
it didn’t hurt that Arctic Island has a sibling, as it were: the
attached Broadway Café, which opened Thanksgiving weekend 2005. “Since
the café stayed open all year, it wasn’t a huge leap to keep Arctic
Island open, too,” he adds.
As for what was popular during the
winter, that may surprise you. “Milkshakes. It was amazing the amount
we served through the winter,” Sorber says. “Our Monster Milkshake is
real popular. It’s made with fresh fruit, strawberries and bananas.”
Arctic Island/Broadway Café is open weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; weekends, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
A few blocks west is Gannon’s Isle, a perennial Syracuse New Times
Best of Syracuse winner in the Best Ice Cream category. Eileen Gannon,
who owns the landmark with her brother John Gannon, says they reopened
March 3. “We used to stay open during the winter and the first year we
did, January and February were really nice. But by the third year,
well, there is no worse place to be than in an ice cream store when the
wind is blowing and no one is buying anything,” she says.
Blast from the past: Gannon’s, circa 1994, when the purple ice cream cone graced the roof of the outbuilding at Valley Drive and Seneca Turnpike. Michael Davis photo.
Gannon’s, 1525 Valley Drive, stays open
through October, but the downtime until spring has sprung isn’t spent
idly. “It takes a good six weeks to clean everything up,” Gannon says.
“We can shut down the big freezers, do painting, and those type of
tasks can take four to six weeks at a leisurely pace. I do take a
vacation during the lull, and I try to go someplace warm.”
That’s cold comfort for Gannon’s fans
stuck in the snow, but they are loyal and flock to the spot when their
favorite hard ice cream—made by hand at Gannon’s—is available. Their
soft ice cream uses a Byrne Dairy base with Gannon’s flavorings.
“I always like listening to the
answering machine,” Gannon says. “They’ll say, ‘Can you open?’ ‘You
might make it Spring if you do.’ And they are always excited when we
finally do open.”
Standing at the corner of Valley Drive
and East Seneca Turnpike, Gannon’s started in 1954 as a grocery store;
a small, freestanding building in the parking lot served custard. After
the grocery business declined and patriarch Bill Gannon retired, the
siblings moved the ice cream operation into the store in 1995. The
goofy purple ice cream cone got moved from the roof to inside the
establishment soon thereafter.
“It got blown around a few times, and
the 1998 Labor Day storm was just too much,” Gannon says. “It’s tough
to find someone to fix a 15-foot fiberglass ice cream cone. It’s not
heavy, but it is bulky.”
Gannon’s currently is open daily, noon
to 9 p.m. When the weather breaks (“We play it by ear,” Gannon says),
they’ll be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
A little farther afield is Kimberly’s,
with locations in Manlius and Cazenovia. Open for five years, the sweet
spot also sells homemade candies, so owner Kimberly Bukowski keeps the
fires burning through Christmas. She closes for January, and then
reopens the 8240 Route 92, Manlius shop for that sweetest of holidays,
Valentine’s Day. The Cazenovia spot, at 63 Nelson St., opens up in
“Business is good. We’ve been doing great,” Bukowski says. “I love having Easter in March; it helps with candy sales.”
But when it comes to ice cream,
Kimberly’s does just fine, too. “Central New Yorkers are pretty rugged,
and they seem to enjoy ice cream whenever,” Bukowski notes. “A lot of
times the temperatures in November and March are similar, but we tend
to hibernate in November because it gets so dark so early. But in
March, it’s different. It’s lighter later at night and people want
spring so badly that anything helps. On a sunny day in April we can
sell about as much ice cream as on the Fourth of July.”
Currently, both Kimberly’s spots sell
homemade hard ice cream and premium custard Mondays to Saturdays from
11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sundays, noon to 9 p.m. Starting in May, they stay
open until 10 p.m. “That’s when the college students come home and can
start working for me.”
Out Liverpool way, Lou Lou’s Ice Cream,
8201 Route 57, stayed open during the winter, but business was slow,
reports owner Mindy Wessinger. But she knows the pace will pick up as
the weather warms. “In June I will expand my hours to 11 a.m. to 10
p.m. every day,” she says.
Wessinger’s situation is unusual, as her
ice cream shop has been attached to an adjacent restaurant space. When
the most recent tenant, Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant, closed, she had a
decision to make. “They were looking for someone to take over the whole
building, so I did that to save my ice cream business,” she says.
During the cold weather, Lou Lou’s
curtailed its ice cream offerings to soft vanilla and chocolate,
sundaes, banana splits and a very few flavors of hard ice cream. “It
was definitely not worth it to stay open, but in my case I have to pay
the rent whether I am here or not, so I stayed open.”
With hotter temps on the horizon, she is
looking forward to dishing up the usual suspects of ice cream land
while serving home-style fare next door. She fields breakfasts of
pancakes, waffles, eggs, oatmeal and the like, starting at 7 a.m., then
switches to sandwiches, burgers and salads for lunch, and meatloaf,
chicken and biscuits and seafood for dinner, currently served until 9
p.m., and likely until 10 in the summer.
“It’ll be like a mini-Bob Evans; I had
my training there. I worked for Friendly’s a little bit, too,” she
says. She promises “reasonable prices and a friendly crew.”
Then there are the chain restaurants,
those that never close, such as Friendly Ice Cream Shops. With a
half-dozen locations in Onondaga County, Friendly tends to encourage
winter ice cream sales by offering a sundae in conjunction with a meal.
“Sales in the winter aren’t what they are in July and August,” admits
Larry Ross, director of marketing for Kessler Restaurants, which owns
46 upstate New York Friendlys, “but it stays steady. There are a lot of
people who enjoy ice cream no matter what the weather is.”
While Ross reports that sales don’t vary
much among the six stores, he says the strongest locations in the
winter are Fayetteville and Erie Boulevard East. All of Friendly’s ice
creams are made by the Massachusetts-based company. And since
diner-like food is served there as well, ice cream lovers can benefit
from long availability: 6 a.m. opening until 11 p.m. weekdays, with a
midnight closing on weekends. During the summer the spots are open
until midnight every day.
Ice cream has perennially been a
warm-weather treat, but rules don’t apply when it comes to the ultimate
comfort food. Besides, there’s an upside to licking away when the
mercury drops: no fast-melting messes to dirty up the car. You can take
your sweet time.
Michael Davis photo.