Over a magical thirteen-year run owning Sweet Lucy’s ice cream shop on Concord Pike, Gretchen and Ted Brackin have put a smile on thousands of customers’ faces.
So legions of the Talleyville store’s fans were crushed to recently learn the Brackins had made the very difficult decision to close Sweet Lucy’s doors – meaning no more friendly faces serving up delicious ice cream concoctions topped with every mouth-watering topping imaginable.
The Brackins said the shop was still doing as well as ever but with the demands of Ted’s “day job” in the software business and a desire to spend more time with their three children, they could no longer invest the time required to manage Sweet Lucy’s. Their lease is set to expire at the end of February.
Ice cream lovers across northern Delaware may have reason for hope, however. The Brackins told us they have received several inquiries from parties interested in buying the store.
Ted Brackin said he was “hopeful” a sale could happen, but wouldn’t characterize its likelihood.
“We’re hopeful they will keep the same format but they [potential new owners] also have additional ideas,” said Brackin, adding “it’s not clear at this point” when or if a sale would occur.
Brackin emphasized the welfare of Sweet Lucy employees was a priority through any transition. “We also want to make sure that all of our employees – or at least as many as possible – have an opportunity to continue on,” he said.
A generation of north Wilmington children have grown up knowing Sweet Lucy’s as the “go-to” spot for ice cream treats from Woodside Creamery, Hershey’s and Philadelphia Water Ice. The Brackins opened the store in April 2007, at the dawn of the Great Recession. They have three children — Abbie, Lucy and Owen — and after discussing possibilities of the store’s name with them “they all loved Sweet Lucy’s.”
Below are excerpts from our conversation with the Gretchen and Ted.
TSD: Who did you name the store after?
Ted: So we have a daughter named Lucy, but we did not name it after her. We have another daughter – an older daughter named Abby and another son named Owen. But we just thought the name sounded good at the time. We just kind of put together a whole bunch of names, and that was the one that floated to the top.
TSD: Ice cream shops like this are many people’s first jobs. How many teenagers do you think you’ve employed in 13 years?
Gretchen: Well over 100. That’s been one of the most amazing parts of this experience — showing the ropes to teens, teaching them about our business, and getting to watch them grow into responsible, thoughtful adults.
TSD: What do you think people will miss when you close in February?
Ted: I don’t think anybody does it quite like we do – an old fashioned ice cream store with that many toppings and that many flavors, to be honest with you. When we’re at our peak, we’re offering close to 40 flavors. I think it would be a hard thing to find another store like ours.
TSD: The decision to close must be difficult.
Ted: It’s been very hard. We’ve been at it 13 years, and our kids have only ever known us having the ice cream store. It’s become part of the fabric of our family. Both of our daughters work there as managers. We knew the lease was coming up, and so we had a decision to make. But we’ve even extended the lease — that’s how painful it’s been for us to make the decision.
Gretchen: We talked about selling it, and because we were having cold feet we were just dragging out the decision. And then, as a result of our announcement in a post on Facebook, we’ve had quite a few people interested in continuing it on as an ice cream store.
TSD: So how likely do you think that scenario is?
Ted: I’ve spoken with a lot of people who have this idea of owning their own business, but then the rubber meets the road it can be difficult. A few individuals have expressed interest, and they have experience in the ice cream business. The new owners would be purchasing the contents of the store, the name, and pretty much everything else we’ve built up over the last 13 years. We’re hopeful they will keep the same format.
TSD: You must have many wonderful memories of your experience running Sweet Lucy’s
Ted: We’ve been able to donate a whole lot of ice cream to various causes over the years … of course, we’ve done a lot with St. Mary Magdalene (nearby). And we always give out gift card for auctions. It was a big part of our business plan going into it — to be able to give back to the community, and we have absolutely been able to do that. That’s been one of the bigger things for us – such a positive.