StockBIZ: Stockbridge businesses help sustain the billion-dollar ice cream industry

by Mary Jo David

Who doesn’t love ice cream? I’ll let you in on a secret, even the author of this publication’s fitness column has an ice cream obsession.

According to the International Dairy Foods Association:

  • The average American consumes more than 23 pounds of ice cream per year.
  • Ice cream is an $11 billion dollar industry.
  • The ice cream industry supports 26,000 jobs and generates $1.6 billion in wages.

Source: https://www.idfa.org/news-views/media-kits/ice-cream/ice-cream-sales-trends

Stockbridge does its part to help sustain the multi-billion-dollar ice cream industry through a few small businesses—The Tin Roof, located at 853 S. Clinton Street; Good Manna, alongside the Mike Levine Lakelands Trail trailhead; and the Double Deuce Diner at 555 W. Main Street.

The Tin Roof is a family-owned, seasonal business that has operated at its original location since 2003. Founded by Larry Ostrander and his mom, the business is now owned by Ostrander and his wife Lisa (Spadafore), along with Bryan and Stacie Spadafore and Scott and Niki Spadafore. Considering most of them attended high school in Stockbridge, it’s not surprising their shared business is right here.

But why ice cream? Ostrander explained: “When you sell ice cream, you’re serving people who are in good spirits. I can’t imagine having to work with customers who have a broken-down car or back issues. Instead, we see customers when they’re in good spirits, which is so satisfying and gratifying.” He adds that although their main focus is 99% ice cream (hottest sellers are mainly flurries and their special trashcan sundaes) they also sell a lot of coney dogs, which he credits to the popularity of Todoroff chili.

Running a seasonal business brings with it many challenges, like defining the season. “We open the season based on weather,” Ostrander explained. “If there’s snow on the ground, we put off our opening day. As for closing in the fall, sometimes we’ve been open past Halloween and other times we had to close in early October because of snow.”

Once they’re open for the season, the challenge becomes staffing appropriately for the weather and local sporting events. As it happens, sports and ice cream go well together—especially baseball—according to Ostrander.

The season begins with limited hours, but in early May and through most of the season, The Tin Roof opens at 1 p.m. and remains open until dusk. Staffing usually ramps up from six employees early in the season to about ten during busy months. Most are high school and college students; many hired in during high school and continue to work there through college.

Ostrander acknowledged the hard work of his staff. “I really appreciate their eagerness to work and how much they enjoy learning the customer-service aspect. They’re also very creative. In fact, they’ve actually created a lot of our products.”

A seasonal business like The Tin Roof enables its owners to spend time during the off season planning for the next. This year’s off-season resulted in a decision to purchase the parts for upgrading equipment to expand the shop’s ice cream offerings—from soft-serve and hand-dipped to also include fat-free/dairy-free Dole whips in early May.

Another seasonal business offering ice cream treats in Stockbridge is Kevin and Naomi Carson’s Good Manna, whose motto is “Manna, food worth walking about.” The restaurant features a selection of MSU Creamery ice cream by the scoop. Good Manna, which opened its doors in September 2019, welcomes hikers, bikers, and baby strollers alongside the Mike Levine Lakelands Trail in Stockbridge, near trailhead parking on S. Clinton Street. (For more on Good Manna, see archived article printed in the November 2019 edition of SCN.)

About a mile away, and also in Stockbridge, is the Double Deuce Diner. The building has a long history. In the 1950s, it was Sam’s Drive-In. By 1988, when Stockbridge native Doug Mills purchased the building, he debated what to turn it into. Insurance was in his blood. His grandfather founded the Roepcke Insurance agency in 1930, so originally, opening a restaurant next door to the insurance agency was the farthest thing from his mind.

Ultimately though, Mills opened the Stage Stop Restaurant, and he credits his long-time manager, Sharon Winkle, for making it work. In 2007, the restaurant was remodeled, and in 2017, it became the Double Deuce Diner—modeled after the old 1950s diners with vinyl-covered seating and table-top jukeboxes. Ever the car enthusiast, Mills named the diner after two deuce coupe automobiles he owns.

Earth to Mary Jo: But isn’t this month’s column supposed to be about ice cream? Well, sure enough, when you check out the outdoor signage, the Double Deuce Diner does feature FOOD & ICE CREAM!

The COVID pandemic severely curtailed the diner’s ability to offer eat-in dining. Like many other restaurants, they switched to a carryout model to weather the storm. The restaurant put its old drive- through window back into operation and recently added two walk-up pick-up windows to the front of the diner. A light-up-number sign out front will signal customers when their orders are ready for pick-up.

“We’re focusing more on our ice cream offerings than we have in the past,” Mills explained. The Double Deuce offers hand-dipped ice cream with a plan to expand to soft-serve. Sure enough, throughout the interview, waitress Jessica was busy building hand-dipped ice cream concoctions for customers at the window. Turns out, whether it’s served in a tall cup or a glass dish, a banana split still looks delicious.

When asked about ice cream favorites, Jessica responds, “Butter pecan and black cherry are two popular flavors, but the kids really love Superman ice cream.” She adds that the Double Deuce Diner also sells lots of vanilla and chocolate, and sundaes are always a hit.

Admitting he’s of an age when most of his friends have retired to places like Florida, Mills is adamant that he wants to keep the Double Deuce open for carryout and especially for ice cream. He’s gearing up to host another Cruise-In car show to coincide with the 2021 Day in the Village celebration over Father’s Day weekend in June.

“Florida’s not for me,” Mills exclaims. “Nobody has employees like I’ve got. I owe it to them and the community to do what I can to keep this business going.”

Contact Information

  • Double Deuce Diner(517) 851-7666. Facebook: Double Deuce Diner
  • Good Manna—(517) 985-6233, Facebook: Good Manna LLC. Web: ordereze.net
  • The Tin Roof— (517) 851-4179. Facebook: The Tin Roof Ice Cream.

 

The Tin Roof, on S. Clinton St., is a family-owned, seasonal business that has operated at its original location since 2003. Image credit: The Tin Roof Ice Cream Facebook page

 

Manna, located near the Mike Levine Lakelands Trailhead in Stockbridge, features a selection of MSU Creamery ice cream by the scoop. Image Credit: Good Manna

The Double Deuce Diner, on W. Main St., has added two walk-up windows and plans to focus more on ice cream offerings. Pictured (l-r) are Sharon Winkle (manager), Jessica (waitress), and Doug Mills (owner). Photo credit: Mary Jo David

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