Original Carvel store officially closes

October 5, 2008 7:58:16 PM PDT
The original Carvel shop served its last cones Sunday, more than seven decades after becoming the suburban New York birthplace of an ice cream empire.Customers flocked to the 1950s-style store in Hartsdale, about 25 miles north of Manhattan, snapping photos and lamenting the coming shutdown, owner Abdol Faghihi said. Even as the doors were closing around 10:30 a.m., a last-minute customer rushed in for two cones, he said.

The shop, which the owner said had struggled with rising taxes and other expenses, was shuttered to make way for a new restaurant.

"I'm sad that it ends, but at the same time I'm happy that it was a good thing I did in life," said Faghihi, a high school government and economics teacher who bought the franchise more than 20 years ago. "For everyone who comes in, it was special."

Original plans envisioned the possibility of maintaining a small Carvel shop on the Central Avenue property, but Faghihi said the redevelopment was scaled back during as the owners sought local government approvals. He and a partner bought the property from the Yonkers-based Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation for about $3.5 million two years ago.

Tom Carvel's ice cream truck got a flat tire on Central Avenue in 1934. He was forced to pull over and did such brisk business that he opened an ice cream stand on the spot two years later.

The brand became famous for its soft-serve swirls and ice cream cakes with such themes as Fudgie the Whale and Cookie Puss, promoted in television commercials the founder did himself before his death in 1990. The Atlanta-based company's products are now sold in more than 500 Carvel stores and 8,500 supermarkets nationwide.

A Carvel corporate spokeswoman didn't immediately return a telephone call Sunday about the original store's closing.

Faghihi runs two other Carvel stores in nearby communities. He said the venerable brand still sells well, but mounting expenses squeezed profits at the sizable Central Avenue store.

Customers on its final weekend were sad but understanding, Faghihi said.

"They all say that, well, the economy dictates what we do," he said.

He planned to sell off some machinery at an auction at the store Monday.

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