The Ice(cream)man Cometh

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It is not gelato, but American soft-serve ice cream has an allure all its own, with a great smooth and creamy mouthfeel and a comfort factor that brings me back to my childhood and the boardwalk at Coney Island. I have always loved soft-serve ice cream whether from Carvel, Mister Frostee or any number of other purveyors. Never though, have I lived in an area with an abundance and richness of soft-serve ice cream as I currently do in the are of Glens Falls, N.Y. Saratoga Springs and Lake George get the glamor and the press (relatively speaking), but when it comes to ice cream and especially soft-serve ice cream, the Glens Falls area plays second fiddle to nowhere else.

While not exactly a small town, neither Glens Falls nor its neighbor, Queensbury, are major metropolises either. Together they and other surrounding towns comprise a nice community nestled in the foothills of the Adirondacks and just a stone's throw (ok, by an Olympic class shotputter!) from the major urban areas of NYC, Boston and Montreal. Along with the restaurants of Saratoga and Lake George and the bounty of area farms, there is plenty of good food to be had. That a dairy item like ice cream should be amongst them is not really a surprise given that the area has a longstanding tradition of excellence in the dairy industry. That they should be so concentrated in Glens Falls/Queensbury is unusual though. The main reason for that may have been the development and history of our local amusement parks such as The Magic Forest and especially Storytown, which evolved into Six Flags' The Great Escape. It wasn't so much that they developed the taste of this ice cream. Rather one of the area's best, Martha's Dandee Cream was situated across the road from the park. Martha's became an institution, until the family who started it sold it to Six Flags. When that happened, the road to competition opened, with some members of the Martha's family opening Rob & Deb's Frozen Dreams across town followed by an expansion into ice cream both soft and hard of the successful local micro-brewery Cooper's Cave Ale Company. In addition, after owning Martha's for a number of years, Six Flags sold the store back to some members of the family that started the store.

The soft-serve in each of the local mainstays, Martha's, Rob & Deb's and CCAC are all of excellent quality, but they have developed different strategies for their stores. Both Martha's and the related Rob & Deb's use the formula of having only a few flavors available on any given day. Vanilla (my traditional favorite) and chocolate (my wife's) are always available. In addition, every couple of days they rotate flavors amongst a larger variety such that on any given day only a handful of choices are available. Cooper's cave, on the other hand, has a boatload of flavors including plenty of exotic ones like red passionfruit and the pictured chocolate banana available all the time. While I think the marketing plan of Marth's and Rob & Deb's is the smarter one as it keeps people coming back just to see what new flavors or old favorites may be available that day, Cooper's cave is probably a better choice for those with very specific cravings. In any case, all three seem to be doing quite well early this summer season. I'm not complaining.


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2 Responses to The Ice(cream)man Cometh

  1. Patrick says:

    I love how their “single” is a ‘large’ anywhere else… and the “double”… fifteen scoops of love.

  2. John Sconzo says:

    The cone pictured is a “kiddie” cone!

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