WATERTOWN — Daryl R. Clemons has never eaten as much ice cream as he has in the past two weeks.
Here’s the scoop:
He and his wife, Cheryl, are opening the old Carvel ice cream parlor on outer State Street that has sat vacant for more than a decade.
They renovated the iconic building after purchasing it about 18 months ago, naming it Cold Rush Ice Cream. The business opens this morning.
“It sat here all this time,” Mr. Clemons said, “and started falling apart. It came up for us to buy.”
But Mr. Clemons’ family has a long ice cream history. For about 26 years, Jodi’s Dairy Bar in Dexter has been in the family, with his father, Ernest J. Clemons Sr., operating it until he sold it to Mr. Clemons’ brother, Ernest J. Clemons Jr., last year.
“It’s been a good living for our family and we thought it would be a good way to ease into semiretirement,” Mr. Clemons said.
Mr. Clemons owns a local construction company, while Mrs. Clemons is the property manager for Beaver Meadows apartments in Watertown.
Cold Rush Ice Cream is one of a just a few businesses in the area that sells 24 flavors of Hershey’s ice cream. Most offer Perry’s, he said. Both soft serve and hand-packed Hershey’s are offered.
His favorite flavor is Oatmeal Cookie Craving, while she likes Fruiti Cereal Swirl.
“It tastes just like Fruity Pebbles cereal,” she said.
They’ll make their own ice cream sandwiches and pies. The shop also will feature ice cream sundaes, shakes, flurries. slushies and gift certificates. They’ll also offer lunch specials of Hofmann hot dogs, chips and a soda.
Intending to be open year around, Mrs. Clemons and four employees will work at Cold Rush. It will be open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
“I love ice cream,” she said.
They acquired the ice cream making equipment from both near and far. Some of it was refurbished from California, while some equipment was purchased from Jack’s Diner in Three Mile Bay after it stopped selling ice cream.
The interior went through extensive renovations. During the construction, they found the interior’s original yellow and white wall tiling from the Carvel days and was able to save it like it was new, he said.
“We just kept cleaning it and cleaning it,” he said.
The building’s exterior and parking lot also will soon get updated.
Mr. Clemons doesn’t remember much from when Carvel’s soft serve ice cream and cakes were sold there.
The local Carvel operated at that location at 1850 State St. for decades. Opening as a franchise in 1969, Carvel then closed in 1971 for five years before reopening in 1976.
Mrs. Clemons has fond memories of getting ice cream from Carvel when she was about 10 years old. Soon after it reopened in 1976, her father moved to Watertown after retiring from the Air Force and remembered the original owners, the Principe family, running Carvel in those days.
“I loved the ice cream and remember the sweet old couple here,” she said.
Founded by Greek immigrant Tom Carvel in 1934, Carvel was the nation’s first retail ice cream company, known for creating soft serve ice cream, custom-shaped ice cream cakes and novelty items.
For decades, Mr. Carvel was the spokesman for the chain’s ad campaign in offbeat television ads until he died in 1982.
The chain grew to about 700 franchises during the 1970s, but the business shifted from individual shops to selling its products in grocery stores when an investment firm bought the company. About 400 stores remain, mostly in the Northeast, including one in North Syracuse.
In Watertown, the Principe family ran the local franchise until local businessman Anthony J. Fiorentino purchased it from them in 1996. For several years, business was so good that he opened a second location in a plaza near the Walmart on Route 11 in the town of LeRay,
But it was a rocky road from there. Mr. Fiorentino defaulted on a bank loan for the State Street building and Carvel eventually closed.
The once popular ice cream parlor sat idle for years, leaving the building’s fate unknown.
In 2021, another man, Robert Frost, bought the property for $5,000 and was all set to open it. But just two days before he was going to reopen the ice cream shop, he suffered a stroke.
And then Mr. and Mrs. Clemons worked out a deal buy it from him for $60,000.
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