Carvel Takes a Hit, But Ice Cream Goes On

Last Monday afternoon, June 13, perhaps feeling the extreme need for a “Cookie Puss,” the driver of a silver Mercedes ML350 SUV crashed into the front of the Carvel ice cream parlor in Bridgehampton. The driver, Ellyn Tucker, a 65-year-old East Hampton woman, was trying to park in front of the Carvel when she somehow hit the gas pedal instead of the brake. Luckily, no one was injured as the Mercedes caromed off a 2010 Lexus before becoming implanted in the front window of the Carvel.

After the accident, there was some talk about whether the Southampton Fire Marshall would allow the ice cream shop to reopen or even be repaired until he inspected the structural damage and made an official determination. It was reopened by the weekend, serving the public with plywood boards covering the hole the car made. The incident instigated a debate about the iconic building itself and the history of the whole Carvel franchise at our office. [expand]

I investigated and here are some facts: The summer before the 1929 stock market crash, Tom Carvel (Athanassios Karvelas) borrowed $15 from his future wife, Agnes Stewart, and began selling ice cream from the back of his mobile truck up in Westchester County. The native of Greece was born in Athens on July 14, 1906, and came to the USA with his parents in 1910. It wasn’t until 1934, that the nation’s first retail ice cream company was started, only because Tom Carvels’ vending truck suffered a flat tire in Hartsdale, NY during Memorial Day Weekend, and he began selling his melting ice cream from his broken-down truck. The rest, they say, is history.

In Bridgehampton, the Carvel store, which is still almost in the form of the original Carvels, has been the location of many post-sport victories, dates, birthdays and afternoon sojourns with some soft creamy ice cream. For many, Carvel has been an absolute staple, sitting across from the Bridgehampton Commons on Route 27 since the drive-in became part of the American scene. Remember the almost-extinct drive-in movie theaters? Actually in East Hampton, drive-in service windows are illegal, except for banks.

The Bridgehampton Carvel looks and feels the same as when I first stopped in when I was in high school in the late 1960s and early 1970s to visit relatives living in Montauk. The hum of the refrigeration machine, which, with a pull of the lever makes that wonderful soft ice cream circle onto your cone, is always heard. In my days as a little leaguer, at the Carvel in the neighborhood where I grew up, you waited on line at a window outdoors until it was your turn. I am hoping they will keep Bridgehampton’s Carvel just the way it is and not use this crash to update its appearance or make it larger. On hot summer evenings, Carvel is priceless to parents of young children who become transformed under the influence of holding a Carvel cone with sprinkles on it in their hands.

I was able to reach someone at the Bridgehampton Carvel who said that he believes repairs will be done quickly and that the ice cream parlor will look the same. Hearing that made me smile my best “cookie puss” smile. However, he laughed when I asked will the Bridgehampton Carvel now permanently have a drive-up window? The answer was no, you will have to park in front and come in to order. [/expand]

 

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