PAWTUCKET — It’s a treat and a dessert and you can really have ice cream anytime. But there is something special about going to get ice cream at an ice cream stand or from a truck, even on a cool May evening.
Rod Florez, the General Manager of Palagi Brothers Ice Cream and Frozen Lemonade in Pawtucket, actually anticipates sales in late April and early May as some of the best for his business all season.
Palagi Brothers’ 25 trucks usually hit the streets on April 1 but were delayed this year by late winter weather and sales were still slower than usual this week, according to Florez.
What he likes to see at this time of the year is warm weather but not hot. Ice cream sales depend to a degree on a bit of imagination, people thinking about a great summer to come and time spent at a place like the beach.
Of course that is just the inspiration for wanting an ice cream cone in the spring. When the heat of summer actually arrives, people are too busy with their summer activities to buy as much ice cream as they do when the season begins, according to Florez.
“It is a novelty thing,” Florez, a Palagi Brothers manager off and on since 1983, said. “They see our trucks and associate them with sun and fun.”
The company was founded in 1896; its trucks operate throughout Northern and Central Rhode Island and represent the largest ice cream truck fleet in Rhode Island, Florez said.
What might surprise ice cream lovers is the fact the busiest routes for Palagi’s drivers are not actually those serving neighborhoods. The trucks stopping at large companies as workers get off their shifts actually do the best sales, he said.
The trucks have as many as 32 different flavors of ice cream and also serve the company’s popular frozen lemonade as well.
Palagi Brothers trucks run from April to September and some begin their routes as early as 10:30 a.m. and finish at 8 or 9 at night, according to Florez.
Nicholas Michalopoulos, 62, of Woonsocket also knows how spring affects his customers’ particular taste for ice cream and has opened his Cool Corner Creamery at 171 Greene St. in the city in late April since 1995.
The business is always ready to serve its city customers on a warm afternoon but Michalopoulos, who has also owned Woonsocket Palace Pizza at 85 Front St. since 1986, said early evening brings a steady stream of customers, whether they are from a local Little League team, the firefighters and police from a softball game or just people out enjoying the weather.
Cool Corner Creamery offers 25 flavors of hand-packed Hershey ice cream or 24 flavors of the shop’s soft-serve ice cream, yogurts and sherbets.
Michalopoulos started the shop after buying a former gas station property at Greene and Bernon streets and decided to put it to use.
He doesn’t operate it in the winter and ends up busy enough when he has both of his businesses operating.
“I like having both places, that’s why I kept this building,” Michalopoulos said between customers Thursday evening. “I really enjoy what I’m doing because I get to know everyone.”
Customers stop by just to see him, he noted. “I was born in Greece but I feel like I was born here,” he said.
Michalopoulos said the craziest of his hand-packed flavors such as cookie dough and cotton candy are his biggest sellers, but many people also buy cones of vanilla and chocolate-swirled soft-serve.
One family stopping in on Thursday ordered a mix of soft-serve flavors including the vanilla and chocolate twist in a bowl with rainbow jimmies. The mom admitted the weather had turned a bit chilly in the low 50s by the end of the day but that had not affected her taste for ice cream. “It’s never too cold for ice cream,” she said before returning the family’s car after everyone had been served at the shop’s window.
Debbie Freeman, 36, of Woonsocket, said she had convinced her boyfriend to take her and her daughter Seeara Singhavong, 15, and Seeara’s friend, Jamilla Osei, 15, over to the shop for ice cream.
Freeman ordered a banana split with soft-serve vanilla and chocolate twist, and the girls both cotton candy cones. “I wanted cotton candy because it is soooo good,” Osei said.
Freeman also believes “it is never too cold for ice cream,” and would have it every day if she could.
She also likes the convenience of getting ice cream nearby in the city. “There aren’t a lot of places to get soft-serve unless you go to the Dairy Queen in Bellingham,” she said.
Rosemary O’Brien was also able to get her husband Tim O’Brien to drive her over to the Cool Corner Creamery Thursday and ordered up two scoops of mint chocolate chip in a cup.
“Mint chocolate chip, no matter where I go, that’s my flavor,” O’Brien said. “I love it because it is so good.”
Over on Diamond Hill Road in Cumberland, a sign at the Ice Cream Machine announced good news for its loyal customers.
“Spring is here; we are open,” it read.
Kim Caron, who owns the 4288 Diamond Hill Road business with her husband, Gary, said the Ice Cream Machine — known for its offering of homemade ice cream — opens at 11 a.m. starting at the beginning of April and is usually busiest in the evening when the members of local youth teams start stopping by.
Early in the season, the threat of rain can affect the number of people in line at the business’s five service windows, but a large awning and even a couple of ceiling fans for when it is hot, help to keep people comfortable while they wait.
Although the business is closed during the winter, Caron said, she and her husband and their grown children, Zachary and Sara, operate a wholesale ice cream business that sells 3-gallon containers of the Ice Cream Machine’s handmade flavors to restaurants and other ice cream businesses. The family also makes ice cream pies that can be bought whole or sliced like cheesecake.
Caron and her husband bought the business in 1985 from her parents, Russ and Jane Kisseberth, who had started it in the late 1970s.
The operation continues to tap the whole family’s talents and Caron noted she had called in her “big guns” Sara and Zachery to help out with an early-season rush Thursday evening before rain settled over the area.
Surprisingly, the business is only one job the family members maintain.
“People think this is all we do but my husband also has a job as a food broker,” she said. Zachary is in college, and Sara also works as an occupational therapist, she said.
In the lines waiting for ice cream, George Osbourne of Blackstone, his wife, Laurie, and daughters, Meghan, 18, and Kaitlyn, 11, were only thinking of dessert after having eaten earlier at a restaurant.
“It’s really good here,” Laurie said in anticipation of eating a bowl of chocolate ice cream. Meghan, a student at Worcester State, said she was going to have cookie dough.
“It was just kind of a consensus that we decided to come,” she added.
Luckily for George, the family’s two boys, Matt and Jake, opted to go to the car show at Bass Pro Shops in Foxboro and allowed a bit of a savings for his wallet.
Kyle Fanion, Zack Petrecca and Sean Real spotted the ice cream business on their way home from a volleyball game at Mercy Mount and begged Zack’s mom to pulled over for ice cream.
The boys, all eight grade students at St. Augustine’s School in Providence, normally go to Coolicks near their home in North Providence, but were impressed with the Ice Cream Machine’s offering of flavors. Sean and Zack opted for Brownie Batter, and Kyle requested Coffee and Oreos. “We’ve never been here but it was close to the gym,” Kyle said.
Zack said it was almost irresistible.
“As we drove by, I said, ‘Mom, you have to get us this,’” he said.
Colleen Petrecca also bought Zack’s little brother, Christian, a mint and Oreo, but opted to forego ice cream herself.
“It is still too cold out for me,” she said. “It has to be hot for me to want ice cream.”