Sunday, August 31, 2008

Favorite Suggestion Jar Contribution.

From this week's stack of slips pulled out of the Mt. Tom's suggestion jar. One young customer wanted us to know their favorite flavor, cold symptoms be darned...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Back to School Sundae.

For weeks, the crew and I have been kicking around crazy ideas for a kind of 'sundae of the week' thing. I'd planned to start listing a new and interesting sundae suggestion every week. Well, seems I let the summer get away from me, and it never happened. Well, almost never happened. With a mere weekend left in the unofficial summer season to spare, I'd like to introduce you to our first 'sundae suggestion', the Back to School Sundae.

A hearty scoop of homemade cake batter ice cream, dressed up with marshmallow topping, homemade whipped cream, rainbow sprinkles, and a cherry.

The feast you see above was crafted by Mt. Tom's ace, Kate. Bound for her freshman year at Endicott College in just a few days.

Does that look sweet enough for ya?

We'll even throw in a handful of gummy alphabet letters for good measure.

I invite you to stop by for a BtS Sundae or feel free to create your own sundae of the week from any one of the other 52 flavors of ice cream, fro-yo, sorbet, sherbet, and gelato we got going. As always, you can check out all the flavors at our website anytime you'd like.

I hope this blog entry finds you happy and hungry for ice cream. Enjoy the long weekend.

See you soon.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Olympics are over, now what?

Well, the 2008 Beijing Olympics are now in the history books. The timezone thing made it a bit difficult to watch something live and be truly surprised and nervous for the competitors, but there still were some great moments to be watched and admired. The whole Michael Phelps thing goes without saying. The only downside of that I think was the overcoverage of swimming events as compared to many of the more exciting (at least to me) track and field events (maybe I just wasn't watching at the right time) and other interesting events like table tennis and synchronized swimming. In any event, it was great to see the US basketball team back on top. Jamaica's Usain Bolt's world records in the 100 and 200 were just amazing. The beach volleyball rocked. As did Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson, among the other great US tumblers.

For all the great moments and 'thrills of victory', the Olympics can be hard to watch someone fail. Seeing Lolo Jones get tripped up over that last hurdle was tough. And that shooter who's gun went off accidentally, counting as a miss just as he was poised for certain gold in the event. The sacrifices these athletes must make to be get to this level of competition is incredible. Years of their lives. Hard work, discipline, insane training regimes, complete focus on a single goal. The ultimate prize - gold. An instant of competition that's over in less than 10 seconds, a few dives, or a few laps in a pool. It's hard to imagine working so hard for a single opportunity to succeed or fail.

Michael Phelps, when asked how he was able to win an unprecedented 8 gold medals, replied, 'I just imagined it, then set up a training regime to make it happen.'

Of course, imagining it is important, but it's just a place to start. From there, it takes unflinching determination and hard work on a daily basis. Direct translation - thousands of miles of swimming, grueling strength training workouts, sprints until your legs won't move, doing whatever it takes to be the best in your chosen field/pool/track. You have to admire every single athlete in these Games.

It's obvious that Beijing spared no expense, from that crazy 'bird's nest' stadium to those over-the-top but way cool opening and closing ceremonies. They knew the world's eyes would be on them and they'd be darned if they'd let a little smog dim the view of their proud culture.

So what to do now after closing up the scoop shop? The new season of Heroes is still a month away, and who knows when Lost will start back up again.

Guess I'll just have watch the house Sparrows feeding in the swanky bird feeder I just installed on the outside of my apartment window.
Well, the cat seems to enjoy it...

And if that's not enough excitement for one day, the boys in blue are back (no more of this hokey preseason stuff) in just a few weeks! Go Pats. Help us forget that forgetable last game we watched...
See you soon.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hot New Tees are in!

A slick new batch of t-shirts showed up on the dock today. Lots of cool new colors, tye-dyes and solids, small thru 2xl. Even got a healthy stock of youth/kids sized shirts. So if you've been thinking about grabbing a Mt. Tom's tee for yourself, no time to waste!

A bargain at $9.95 (extra buck for the tye-dyes), and just in time for back-to-school...

And since those were definitely the ones that sold, every shirt has the Mt. Tom's mantra on the back...

Life is Short.

Eat Ice Cream.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Good People & Flowers for the tables.

A few days ago, a man was walking on the sidewalk near the shop and took a nasty tumble onto the unforgiving concrete. Bleeding fairly profusely from a cut over his nose, he was helped up to a chair by a couple nice ice cream-goers. I didn't notice the commotion until he'd been sitting out there for a while, being comforted by a couple of women who I just assumed were family or friends.

Turns out they were just kind folk helping a guy who's day had just gotten a lot worse.

The ambulance arrived after about ten minutes, attended to the poor guy, and everyone went their own separate ways.

That was the last I'd heard of the incident, until I read the letter below, written by the grateful guy. Thought it was worth sharing, in case you didn't see it in today's Hampshire Gazette...

To the editor:
On a recent Saturday afternoon, I headed out to do some errands downtown. As an 87-year-old, I'm pretty set in my ways and routines.

Every Saturday I take my handicapped son out to shop and run errands. On this particular Saturday I needed to stop at Valley Art Supply downtown Easthampton. With downtown being so busy on Saturday these days, parking is a premium. I ended up having to park fairly far away on the same side of the street the store was on.

As I was walking, in front of Mt. Tom ice cream I tripped over my own two feet and ended up sprawling face first on the sidewalk, breaking my nose cutting my face and scraping my hands. It surprised me!

The reason I'm sharing this is to thank the three ladies sitting and enjoying their ice cream who came to my aid. I'm sure the sight of my crash surprised them too!

They helped me up and sat me down in a chair, got me a towel for my bloody nose and face and made sure I was OK. They then called the Easthampton EMTs, who were there before I knew it. They cleaned me up and wanted to know if I wanted them to take me to the hospital. I couldn't because my son was in the car and told them one of my kids could take me.

In a world where rudeness, impatience and ignorance seem to be the rule rather than the exception, people such as these shine brightly and thankfully so.

Fabian J. Korza


On a lighter note, thought I'd share a couple shots from this morning's trip to the farm for a fresh batch of flowers for the tables. I call the first 'bee breakfast buffet'.

A restocked flowerpot, one of those little touches I picked up from Mom...

See you soon.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Suggestions & Images.

If you've been to the shop, you've probably noticed the little suggestion jar on the counter. As I've mentionted in the past, this magic jar has been a great source of flavor ideas and provided a wide array of 'helpful' suggestions. Most are nice & confidence reassuring. 'Love the burnt sugar.' etc. Some are silly. 'You need more candy.' Some are intriguing. 'You should have a pajama night.' You can't please everyone, and ocassionally someone doesn't like something as much as most others. For those, you just have to take it in, decide whether it's a credible criticism, and if so, fix it. If not, reread the good reviews and suggestions and wallow in those until the feeling passes. Ah, as in suggestion jars, so goes in life.

I got a great one recently, certainly good for wallowing...

'We really like your ice cream, the photos on the counter, the philosophical sayings, and the old-fashioned, simple feeling of your place. Oh, we also like your prices!'

And here's the best part, and the real reason I wanted to blog about it.

They included a poem...

An old pond,
A frog jumps in,
The sound of water.

- Emma, her mom & dad.

I thought that was pretty cool.

No frog photos (thought a gummy frog shot would ruin the zen moment.), but here are a few images from the week, now that Emma has set the mood...

Mountain View Farm in Bloom.

Monarch on a Hike.
Last night's Show.

A Common Sight this Summer.

Hope you get out and enjoy this fine weekend.
Thanks for listening.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

August Fools?

I realize the summer is going by fast. They always do. But you could imagine my surprise to click into weatherbug this morning to see today's forecast calling for a high of 42 degrees and a low of 25, with a chance of snow tomorrow. Huh?

I must admit there's a part of me that's starting to get weary and is looking forward to the slower pace of the off-season, but I can't say I'm quite ready for the winter jacket just yet.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say it was a glitch and forecast 80's, with the usual chance of rain and thundershowers.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

They Did.

Well, it's official. Night Owl Records is no longer.
Pirate's Den is done.
Paradise-One is zero.
Female Spirit has lost theirs.
Zoe has gone fishing.
Blue Moon Grocery's moon has set.

So what's going on with Cottage Street, small biz in Easthampton, and the great renaissance in our quaint little hamlet?

As Easthampton arguably began its resurgence from the success of Northampton, becoming a nearby affordable alternative for small businesses and home shoppers, so it seems to be going the way of its big sister. The downtown, along with its two biggest abandoned mills, finds itself in need of fresh money, energy, ideas, and enthusiasm. Instead of cool little shops like Crooked House and the Goodlander Gallery, it's Stop and Shop and a few chain stores to be named later. Let's face it, although the economy might not be quite as bad as the media paints it to be, people are definitely feeling the pinch of the rising prices of everything, particularly fuel for their gas and oil tanks. Times, they are indeed, tough.

Do I have all the answers to turning the tide, to jumpstarting the next 'up cycle' of growth? Will the city's new 'master plan' hold the keys to the promised land? No, and I hope so, but probably not. You can lead a horse to water, and even make the water easier to get to, but you still can't make them drink it.

Starting a business is difficult. It's stressful, financially fraught with peril, and hugely time-consuming. Success, in my school of knocks opinion, is a delicate mix of the right idea, at the right time, with the right knowledge, and a ton of hard work. It's about doing your homework before you sign anything, be it a lease, P&S, bank loan, or that first credit app. Starting your own business means saying goodbye to that steady paycheck, benefits (although I realize those are fleeting), and a structured work week. Success can bring with it even longer hours and new pressures. Further, failure can put you in a financial hole that could take years to crawl out of. That's why few who dream it actually do it.

That's also why rather than dwell on the seemingly sorry state of local economics and these so-called victims of its wrath, I feel inspired by them.

They didn't just dream. They did. They followed that passion that burned in their belly. They took those thoughts and piles of post-it notes from morning coffees and daydreams during drives to their cubicle-based jobs and made plans. They found a way to make it real. They created something from nothing. They injected their souls and sweat wholly into something they believed in.

Why did they do it?

Because they loved music and wanted to be around it all the time and to share it.

Because they loved to cook and wanted to make others happy with food.

Because they believed same-sex couples should have a place to live that was luxurious and non-threatening.
Because they wanted their professional life to represent something more than a paycheck and a pension.

Sure, things didn't pan out the way they'd envisioned. But each moves on a little wiser, with a life experience under their belt that no one can ever take away from them. In hindsight, perhaps they would have done a few things differently, but I feel confident to say none regret having put their chips on the table. The memories they've created and the impact they've had on others is truly the reward. Would each love to be contemplating such problems like franchising, second stores, and new product lines? Sure. Do any regret having tried? I doubt it. Mark Schwaber wrote about it in his usual eloquent style here. I think he put it best...

These past 5 years have been remarkable. We've learned more about ourselves, our community and our world than we ever could have if we had chosen another line of work. Not for one second do we regret any decision we've made. We don't consider this venture a failure in any way. Quite the opposite. We feel completely fulfilled. This store has come full circle. It was started (and will finish) with all the love we have to give. It's made our lives together forever enriched. Words fail when it comes to fully communicating our gratitude to all of you who were involved in taking this wonderful journey with us. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you all.

How's that for not leaving anything on the table.

Rain and shuttered shops be darned, I'm inspired.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

How's that for a crazy storm.

It only lasted a few minutes, but wow, it was somethin'.

If you didn't experience it, you can read about it here.

Looking out the front windows of the shop when it hit was like being in a car wash. The sky was dark as night. The wind gusted. Rain fell in horizontal sheets. Cottage Street was instantaneously transformed into a white-capped river. It was actually pretty cool. Until one giant bolt of lightning hit just a few blocks away, and the electricity said so long. Plunged into quiet darkness once again. Two days in a row. Guess I picked the wrong summer to quit drinking.

Unlike the night before, it seemed probable that this one would last more than the one hour of its predecessor.

I had actually planned to fire up the gas generator that day, just to make sure it was still working. Turned out, she was called up to the show. No sense just practicing during a real power failure. This was the scene at the end of my street....

There was a similar scene at the other end of the street, and throughout the town.
Check out these photos.
And the pond has turned a pale shade of brown...

Well, the night was a bust, but thanks to my trusty little generator, there were no ice cream casualties to report. Power came back in time to switch everything back, scoop a few late night customers, and call it a night. Phew.

There was one interesting happening amidst the chaos and stress of the possible microburst-induced blackout. About an hour into the powerlessness, a group of people came up to the door. As I approached from the back of the shop, I prepared myself to deliver the bad news that the ice cream must not be disturbed when there's no power. Not to mention the fact that the shop was almost dark, the register didn't work, or the scales, warmers, and everything else needing the juice.

I tried to wave them off, but they seemed determined to plead their case.

Turned out, it was a group of twenty foreign exchangers, from Poland, Columbia, Dominican Republic, and a number of other faraway places. Their 'trip to a local ice cream parlor' had been planned for weeks. They'd each been to the website, picked the flavor they would order, and had even learned how to say 'I'd like a regular Cookie Dough in a cup, please.' in English. The American group leaders had looks of near panic. They asked if they could buy a tub and some cups and spoons. I pondered the situation for a second, but as soon as my mind began to imagine the sight of twenty foreign visitors with ice cream, dodging downed tree limbs and live wires as they walked around the pond in the rain, it was clear I needed to open my door and let them in.

I couldn't go into all the freezers, so basically I hauled out a tub of vanilla and started scooping. After they were all scooped, I wandered back to check on the generator. A few minutes later, I returned to find twenty men and women, from all corners of the globe, each eating a bowl of classic American homemade vanilla ice cream. In the dark. Few were speaking. There were just too many different languages to go around.

It was a little surreal, kindof cool, and came as a nice little respite from the anxiety I felt as I wondered how long Western Mass Electric would be clearing trees off the wires.

Their organizers had each given them a 'scoop coupon' to use during the field trip, but since it turned out to be just one big vanilla scoopfest in the dark, I hope to see most of our foreign visitors for a cup of their first choice soon. To which I hope to be prepared with a merci, gracias, danke, or dziekuje.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

July's Top 10 Flavors.

Best Selling Flavors for July:
10. Peppermint Stick
9. Chocolate Fudge Brownie
8. Strawberry
7. Deer Trax
6. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup
5. Mint Chocolate Chip
4. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
3. Cake Batter
2. Chocolate
1. Vanilla

No major surprises there, except maybe for the strong showing by Cake Batter. I think Cake Batter sales were up last month with the help of a new variation on the flavor... Rainbow Cake Batter, with rainbow sprinkles and rainbow sno-caps.

New and/or interesting flavors this past month... Pistachio Almond, Mojito sorbet, Mudpie (with brownies, oreos, chocolate chips, mini-marshmallows and marshmallow swirl), the return of Lavender, Vanilla Peanut Butter Swirl, Peppermint Fudge, Cantaloupe Sorbet (took a few tries to get the spelling right), and the big hit of the month, and perhaps the summer... Burnt Sugar.

Just bought a pack of Guinness, so you should see a fresh batch of Guinness ice cream in the dipper in a few days...

And stop by to check out the new frosty drink menu... Lime Rickey's, Iced Mochaccinos, Egg Creams, Birthday Party Milkshake, Mt. Tom's-occino... intrigued?

Think I might whip myself up a little coffee shake with a kick (shot of espresso) right now...

See you soon.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Mt. Tom's Roadshow.

This afternoon I took my gig on the road. Ocassionally, I'm asked to scoop at local functions, fairs, and such. It can be a pretty big effort, one that falls squarely on me, since I really can't ask a summer scooper to make a bunch of ice cream, come in early on a Saturday, load up their pickup truck with a freezer, ice cream, cups, toppings, spoons, hand wash station (can't forget that one), signage, and about eighteen other required props, then drive it all to a field somewhere you've probably never been before. Then,when you get to the event, you've got to find the one person you know, somewhere within a sea of fairgoers, the one who you've been emailing with sporatically for the past two months. Once you find them, they've got to show you where to set up (and where to plug in, you hope). Finally, you've got to unload everything and configure yourself a little mini ice cream shop in the middle of that field. During this time, there are either fifty people already forming a queue in front of the freezer, or there isn't a soul to be seen. At this point, you're either thinking, 'oh boy, can my wrist take this?' or 'oh, boy, how did I get roped into this?'

I don't do many roadshows, mostly because they really are a good deal of effort. On the other hand, though, it's a great excuse to spend an afternoon outside in some festive surrounding. And it really can be a great opportunity to recruit new customers to the shop.

Today's scoop 'o-call was Southampton Day at Conant Park in, you guessed it, Southampton, MA. I didn't expect a Woodstock-type crowd, since the population of SoHamp (not sure what their swanky nickname is actually) is probably around 10,000 (another total guess). I pulled up in my truck at the requested time of 12:30pm, about an hour into the festivities. The crowd was tightly tucked into picnic tables under the park pavillion. This turned out to be very helpful, since it would be pouring within the hour. I double-parked in the lot, turned on the hazards, and began my quest to find 'Deb', my penpal over the past two months. Someone knew someone who knew her, and in the time it took her to walk over and say, 'welcome', I was backing my truck over the lawn to a spot right next to the picnic pavillion.
I quickly plugged in, set up shop, and I was in business. Here's my makeshift operation. Kindof reminds me of those old lemonade stands as a kid...
I was greeted with an initial curiosity over what they were calling the 'special Southampton Day flavor'. Seems Deb had told her crew I had invented a special flavor just for their day. Guess I missed that in the email stream somewhere. I had to do a quick improvise. Presto, chango, a new flavor was born.... Southampton Surprise.

Uncoded name: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

Next time I'll be better prepared for that one. I promise, Deb.

The event was fun. I didn't break any scooping records, but I think I may have gained a new fan or two, we'll see. The new burnt sugar flavor rocked that pavillion pretty good.

As did the Southampton Choral singers...

So it was a quick event, but cool in a small town, let's get everyone together, have a little town meeting, sing songs, give out a few awards, and call it a big picnic kind of way.

And throw in some face painting, homemade blueberry pie, a trick bmx bike show, and some antique cars....
One of my favorite moments was when a little boy came up to my stand and said, 'Mt. Tom's gave you all this ice cream?'.

To which I had to reply, throwing all ego to the wind, "I am Mt. Tom's!'

He seemed unimpressed, simply replying, 'I'll have a Southampton Surprise, please.'

Small towns rule.