Local Ice Cream Shops Try Their Best to Keep the Scoops Coming

Meg Hurst hopes to sell her sundae kits, with toppings and cake cones, to drive-through customers starting on Saturday

As the weather starts to warm up, you may have to search a little longer for a sweet, cold treat.

Local ice cream shops have had to make numerous adjustments on the fly since Delaware Governor John Carney began to implement a State of Emergency several weeks ago in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Day-to-day operations as well as short- and long-term business plans have also been impacted in the case of Sweet Lucy’s Ice Cream and Treats on Concord Pike. It was purchased by Meg and Dan Hurst from the original owners in late February.

At the time, COVID-19 was just beginning to become a concern in the United States.

Employees wear gloves. The shop is sanitized before opening, several times during open hours and again after closing.

Sweet Lucy’s is busy making Easter ice cream cakes like this Chick one and a very funny “bunny butt” variety. Hurst also displays her drive-thru sundae kit.

The small seating area at Sweet Lucy’s was closed when restrictions took effect on restaurant dining rooms and bars. The ice cream shop then focused on serving customers from its window and back patio as it streamlined its menu to offer pints and quarts of ice cream as well as sundae kits.

Now, the walk-up business at the window is not allowed under expanded restrictions that took effect this week. Owners and staff are deciding how to accommodate drive-up customers on very short notice.

 

“I’d say that Lucy’s boat is staying afloat,” Meg Hurst said. She added that while Sweet Lucy’s has managed to stay open, pay its bills and keep its employees working, profit margins are lower because it’s selling ice cream in bulk instead of individualized treats.

Sweet Lucy’s hours are:
Monday – Thursday,  5 to 8:30 pm
Friday and Saturday,  2 to 8:30 pm
Sunday, 12 to 6 pm

One of Sweet Lucy’s ice cream suppliers is Woodside Farm Creamery of Hockessin, which has also made numerous adjustments to comply with the state’s restrictions. Two of its trailers and a van that are normally used for catering or at food truck events are now open for drive-through business.

Woodside Farm Creamery in Hockessin has a brisk drive-through ice cream business

“To minimize contact between staff and the customer, we have them all doing one specific job. We have one person who all he’s doing or she’s doing is scooping ice cream,” Woodside Farm Creamery co-owner Janet Mitchell said.

“The second employee, all they’re doing is the cash register. The third employee is outside on the ground getting the order from the customer and with a tray taking the order to them and bringing the cash back to the cashier to cash out their bill,” said Mitchell.

Folks are happy with their right-off-the-farm ice cream, even if they can’t enjoy it on the grounds of Woodside Creamery

Co-owner Jim Mitchell said customers are patient and appreciative of the opportunity to keep enjoying Woodside’s ice cream. “We have our regular customers and they come out to support us and we in turn can hopefully support them as well,” he said.

Woodside is now open Thursday through Sunday, 12 to 6 pm. 

Sweet Nel’s at 3901 Concord Pike is also offering tasty curbside treats — all of their flavorful ice creams and specialty gelatos, plus any of the other breakfast, smoothie and pastry items. 

Sweet Nel’s ice cream is made at Nelson’s Dairy Farm in Pennsylvania. Many of their 32 flavors are organic. 

Sweet Nel’s now offers curbside ice cream – by the pint or the quart – plus coffee, pastries and more

Customers can place their order by calling ahead or pull up to the store and place their ice cream order with staff members. Patrons can also order a cup of La Colombe coffee, any of the crepes, waffles, smoothies, acai bowls, and breakfast sandwiches regulars have come to love.

Sweet Nel’s is open Monday to Friday – 4 pm to 8 pm and Saturday & Sunday – 10 am to 8 pm.

Ice Cream Delight in north Wilmington announced on Thursday that due to the State of Emergency, their take-out window service has closed. Curbside is also not available. 

But you can still call Ice Cream Delight at (302) 478-4555 to place orders for custom ice cream cakes, quarts of soft serve (chocolate, vanilla, choc & vanilla twist and orange & vanilla twist) and freshly made ice cream sandwiches for pickup at V&M Bistro right next door. If you reach their voicemail, just leave a message.

Ice Cream Delight is located at 1 Ice Cream Drive, and V&M Bistro is located at 1717 Marsh Road in Wilmington.

Custom ice cream cakes are still available at Ice Cream Delight

Downstate, business has been brisk at The Frozen Farmer on Route 404 in Bridgeville since its transition to drive-through exclusively about three weeks ago, according to co-founder Katey Evans. She said most orders now are called ahead.

“We’ve always had great success and great response from our drive-through window in general,” Evans said. Frozen Farmer is also selling produce and goods from the farmers market business, Evans Farms.

The Frozen Farmer has been doing drive-through ice cream service since last week. Business is up since many folks want to see owner Katey Evans, who won a big investment two weeks ago on Shark Tank.

More customers are also buying pints and quarts of ice cream to stock their freezers. Evans also said a number of locals have come out since her appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank in late March.

As for the state-mandated precautions, Evans said they seem to be sensible measures.

“I think the more we can kind of minimize exposure to one another and maintain social distance measures, the more we’re going to be able to flatten this curve,” Evans said. “I think it’s great that businesses like ours are able to offer drive-through services to allow customers to still get those essential goods, and get those goods that also sweeten life a little bit.”

The Frozen Farmer‘s drive-through is open Tuesday and Wednesday – 11 am to 3 pm, and Thursday through Sunday – 11 am to 8 pm.

The Frozen Farmer is located on Evans Farm in Bridgeville. All of their ice cream, “nice cream” and sorbet offerings are made with produce grown on the farm.

However, Hurst says the restrictions have been challenging for hers and other small ice cream shops which have had to scale back operations while many other food-to-go businesses are allowed to serve walk-in and walk-up customers.

“They took it out from under us, and discriminated against who could stay open and who could not,” Meg Hurst said. Their major money-making business, the Cajun-Sno food truck, is also apparently sidelined.

 

The Hursts are now looking at ways to serve drive-up customers in the shopping plaza’s confined parking area, which borders on a nearby neighborhood. Since every other business in their shopping center is closed, the Hursts hope to direct cars through the empty lot in front. Their plan is to open the drive-through business on Saturday.  

It’s those customers, Meg Hurst said, that keep them going.

“The community allowing us to spread smiles and scoops, it’s the coolest thing to be a part of,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, for sure, but I’m so happy to be part of it and to be able to spearhead that love for the community.”

 

And for those who may question the essentiality of quality ice cream, Janet Mitchell of Woodside had this to say: “Ice cream is a comfort food. It has always been my comfort food. At times of stress, it’s one thing I reach for and I think a lot of people do so, too.”


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About the Contributor

Mark Fowser

Mark Fowser

Mark Fowser is a veteran broadcast-journalist in Delaware and New Jersey. He has anchored and reported with WDEL, WHYY, Delaware1059, WILM and Delaware First Media (now Delaware Public Media). Mark lives in New Castle.