By Bob Kalinowski, Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice
WILKES-BARRE — Kevin Manning knew opening an ice cream store at the onset of winter was a radical idea.
The store, Kevin and Kacy’s Ice Cream Shoppe at 41 S. Main St. in Midtown Village, did surprisingly well around the holidays, but recent bone-chilling temperatures have put a freeze on business, he said.
“Now, we are thinking, being open through this, we are really crazy. We obviously had not planned on the coldest stretch in years,” Manning said with a laugh Friday as temperatures hovered around 10 degrees with the wind-chill making it feeling much colder. “Maybe we’ll get some customers out of pity.”
A sign on Main Street points to the store and jokes about the cold: “Free samples of ice cream. Get them while they’re hot!”
Manning’s family runs the Manning Farm Dairy in Lackawanna County, where they have five stores. His roles are milking cows and delivering the farm’s products, such as milk, ice cream, cakes and pies.
The 36-year-old and his wife, Kacy, months ago decided to open their own store in Wilkes-Barre based on the huge popularity of their ice cream truck at events like the Farmers Market and Fine Arts Fiesta on Public Square.
They sell 36 flavors of Manning’s Ice Cream by the scoop, half-gallons to go, several varieties of milk, cakes and pies.
“While it’s not the optimal time to open an ice cream business, we did want to be an all-year-round business. We knew it would be slow going at first. We wanted to build a base of customers,” Manning said.
As with the family’s other stores, they try to rely on cake, pie and milk sales to boost business during the winter months, when ice cream sales are slower, he said.
During the winter months, they also offer seasonal ice cream varieties like peppermint stick, apple strudel and cinnamon to attract customers, Manning said.
The store’s current hours are supposed to be 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. But they’ve been closing early the past few days.
“I don’t think anyone’s going to be walking around when that sun goes down,” Manning said.
Despite the frigid temperatures, the store did have customers during some spurts on Friday, said store worker Betsy Macko, 20.
“I expected less people actually,” Macko said. “I called yesterday to ask if we were still going to have work because of the wind chill. Today is like the coldest day of the winter and we still had people coming in for ice cream.”
Manning said he questioned whether to open, but decided they should. The business is only several weeks old and they are still trying to run it as efficiently as possible, he said.
“Sometimes it helps to open up slower,” Manning said. “It allows you to work through the hiccups.”
While it’s freezing outside, Manning said customers will be warm inside as the thermostat is set to 70 degrees.
“If you are in here to eat some ice cream, you’ll be plenty warm,” Manning said.