Ice cream in the cold? How ice cream shops open year-round handle Southern Tier winters

Tom Passmore
The Leader

Ice cream when it's cold is an oxymoron. Normally, ice cream is thought of as a delectable treat during a summer day to help cool down from the heat.

Most ice cream places agree, as they are mainly open during the spring and summer. Some, however, are open year-round — and these shops operate differently than they would during the warmer months.

Dippity Do Dahs on Market Street in Corning is open all year round.

Providing the space

"In the winter time, peoples' lives switch gears," Ben Calkins, owner of Dippity Do Dahs Homemade Ice cream on Market Street in Corning said. "You have to convince people that it's still ok to get ice cream and there's still options."

The vast majority of ice cream shops in the Southern Tier aren't equipped to deal with the challenges of staying open in the winter. Since going up to a stand in below freezing temperatures isn't very appealing, providing the space for customers to get out of the cold is half the battle. 

Calkins said Dippity Do Dahs does shave down its hours of operation during the winter, but the goal has always been to stay open all year.

"In the summer we're seven days a week, in the winter we've modified our hours," Calkins said. "It's one of those things where you have to limit the hours because it's just not feasible."

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Milk + Ice Handcrafted Ice Cream located in Binghamton is experiencing its first winter and knew when it opened on Clinton Street in Binghamton in June that the shop would be open all year round.

"We had no intention of being closed for the winter because it wasn’t something we had to do because of the space we had," owner Scott Perkins said. "It's about changing the mindset. Why would our ice cream shop close? Especially if we have seating."

And for a new business like Milk + Ice, owners Scott and Katie Perkins have already seen benefits from staying open that might help them during their peak season in the summer by creating a customer base while their competition is in their off-season.

"I've seen an uptick of people coming in and saying I found you guys online and that they wished more ice cream shops were open in the winter," Scott Perkins said. 

Specialty flavors and different products

Ice cream pies during Thanksgiving, ice cream drowned with espresso during the winter and flavors like peppermint bark. To entice potential customers during the winter months local ice cream shops tend to think outside of the box. 

Peppermint Bark ice cream is one of the specialty flavors offered by Dippity Do Dahs in Corning during the winter months.

"We've noticed people like to tiptoe into things that are unique or different," Scott Perkins said. "People see we're passionate about what we're doing they are apt to try something new. It’s great to get people out of their comfort zones and we don’t see that much with ice cream."

These specialty flavors are only available in select months by design, so customers are more inclined to stop by in the winter to get their favorite flavors associated with the multiple holidays during winter.

Besides specialty flavors of ice cream, shops tend to stretch the menu during the winter.

Dippity Do Dahs has dabbled in smoothies that are fruit based, non-dairy and made with coconut water and almond milk. They are planning even more outside of the box ideas in the future.

"We've got some plans behind the scenes that we're working on a few other thing to minimize that bell shaped curve where sales are way up during the summer and way down during the winter," Calkins said.

Milk + Ice shares a space with with De Colores Cookies y Mas which has allowed them to offer sundaes, affogatos, and hot chocolate floats—proving there's a lot you can do with ice cream besides when its on a cone.

"The goal has always been putting together a good product," Calkins said. "We know where the ingredients come from. We've always thought that if we took care of that, customers will come no matter the season."

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