Rite of spring. Your favorite ice cream stand has likely reopened for new season

Sierra Sorrentino
ssorrentino@gannett.com

As the weather begins to warm, appetites turn cooler — and that's good news for local ice cream businesses reopening for the season. 

In Bellingham, Sandy’s Chill Spot Ice Cream & Seafood Restaurant opened last Friday, April 1. Owner Nancy Pinheiro is looking forward to catching up with regular customers, many of whom she hasn't seen since closing the eatery's doors on Oct. 31. 

“We have these two little old ladies that are good friends and they come almost every week, and I was able to see one of them over the weekend,” Pinheiro said. “She came in, got her regular (coffee cake yogurt in a cup with a cone on top) and we were excited to see her and know they were doing OK.” 

Uhlman's Ice Cream in Westborough has opened for the season. Raw and cold conditions on this recent day didn't stop Sienna Dautel, 11, of Southborough, from enjoying her cup of mint chocolate chip ice cream, March 24, 2022.

In addition to chatting with the crew, customers can once again enjoy Sandy’s popular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Hurricane, its specialty layered sundae, and other treats from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. 

And beginning June 1 — just in time for beautiful summer nights — Sandy’s will be open from noon to 10 p.m. every day. 

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Last year, COVID-19 hindered the warmer, more successful summer months of businesses, but shop owners are hopeful of a turnaround this spring. That includes Uhlman’s Ice Cream on East Main Street in Westborough, which reopened March 4 and whose biggest spring and summer clientele includes children’s local sports teams, some of which the business sponsors.

“I love seeing the teams come in," said Uhlman's owner Kelley Marston. "They are all so excited, coaches eat free and the moms after school will grab a couple of picnic tables and will even bring pizza and then the kids run all over the place. Just fun."

As COVID-19 regulations are relaxed, ice cream shop owners are hopeful that people will venture outside more and get excited to hit up local restaurants and small businesses once again. However, “this is such a fluid industry, and I am a little concerned people will not stay local,” Marston said. 

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Sunil Patel, owner of Mad Willie’s in Framingham, shares Marston’s concerns about families taking spring and summer vacations. He believes business will fluctuate as a result.

However, Patel is no stranger to uncertainty because, unlike many other ice cream businesses, Mad Willie’s braved the frosty winter months and remained open. Patel said this was the first winter in its 16 years of business where he decided to stay open year-round. From noon to 9 p.m., seven days a week, customers could pick up Mad Willie’s best-selling flavors like Blueberry Pie or Totally Turtle. 

At Uhlman's Ice Cream in Westborough, scooper Coleman Hostage offers up a cone, March 24, 2022.

The main reason Mad Willie’s remained open was because “the winter wasn’t bad and the pandemic situation is getting slightly better, so we are thinking people still aren’t traveling that much.” 

During these slower, colder months, Mad Willie’s sold its popular flavors in pint and quart sizes so customers could enjoy the cold confections at home. Patel hopes to do the same next winter if customers continue to show support, but he has not made a final decision.