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Seasonal ice cream stands offer glimmers of normalcy

Seasonal ice cream stands operate regularly under the takeout model. Their business hasn't capsized to quite the same extent as Buffalo's restaurants and bars.

At the Village Scoop in Lancaster, Adrian's Custard in Grand Island and Main Street Ice Cream in Hamburg, business is still far from normal; they forge ahead responsibly but cautiously, with the realization customers won't be coming in droves.

Typically, in early April, families emerge from winter slumbers as warm days become more frequent, eyeing ice cream stands for a treat. With the Covid-19 pandemic's restrictions in place, however, fewer venture out, and these stands have had to weigh whether opening is the right decision.

"We went back and forth," said Frank Vecere, one of three partners who owns the Village Scoop, at 318 Central Ave. "We wanted people to have somewhat of a normalcy in their life. Are we nervous? Sure, everyone's nervous. But we see kids come up and get ice cream and they're dancing to the music playing, and there's still some normalcy in the world."

Main Street Ice Cream owners Randy and Denise Fenton decided to bring back their April Fools Day special — maple bacon pancake was featured this year, for a dollar per scoop — to raise money for the Feed Hamburg initiative. The shop donated $50 to the cause.

All three have produced their own build-your-own sundae-at-home kit, and the Adrian's version ($25 for two pints of hard ice cream or soft serve, a choice of two sundae toppings, plus two of sprinkles, nuts or candies; and just $6 more for another pint of ice cream and whipped cream) has been a  hit, with between 90 and 100 kits sold last week.

Owner ToniMarie Amantia encourages customers to call ahead (773-9242) for the sundae kit to ease the transaction; it's not available through DoorDash (although many of their hot foods and ice cream products are).

Main Street's kit ($13, two pints of chocolate and vanilla custard, chocolate sauce, rainbow sprinkles, chocolate crunch and one extra candy) had an added bonus, too, supporting new Hamburg business Haak's Cakes, which offered a free cookie with the purchase of a kit last weekend.

For all of these shops, while products have changed creatively, the joyous atmospheres have been absent. In Lancaster, tables have been stacked on top of each other, cones placed 6 feet apart to form a line, service windows barely opened and the usual outdoor clamor — kids playing with a wooden train, jumping rope and scurrying about — forbidden.

"We're taking precautions — we're going crazy with precautions," added Vecere, a West Seneca native who's called Lancaster home for the last 16 years.

The Village Scoop has limited hours, from 5 to 8 p.m., and schedules only two employees per shift. One handles the barely cracked cash register window, wearing and frequently changing gloves after handling money, while the other is dedicated to making the product, to ensure only one other person, aside from the customer, comes in contact with each order.

By reducing the hours, Vecere estimated he's lost 80% of his business so far, but that's what's necessary to carry on. The owners are eager to give back, too, offering free small soft-serve cones to first responders and medical personnel last week, and essential employees, such as grocery store workers, beginning Monday.

The Fentons' Main Street Ice Cream, situated in the Village of Hamburg, has benefited from the #HamburgCurbside initiative, where there are designated parking spots on Main and Buffalo streets to customers ordering takeout from local businesses.

Adrian's, which moved across the street last summer and opened its first indoor sit-down area and bar, has reverted back to a service-window-only approach — the doors to get inside are locked — and Amantia is encouraging customers to call in orders to limit contact upon arrival; curbside pickup is available, too.

INFO:

  • The Village Scoop, 318 Central Ave., Lancaster. 5 to 8 p.m. daily.
  • Main Street Ice Cream, 35 Main St., Hamburg. 649-2970. 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 1 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • Adrian's Custard, 2352 Grand Island Blvd., Grand Island. 774-9242. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

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