THE CREATION OF ICE CREAM ALLEY
Submitted by Christine Whelan
Photos by Christine Whelan
JUNE 24, 2021 VOL. 2 ISSUE 22
I scream! You scream! We all scream for ice cream!
Karen and John Arbour have decided it’s time to have fun. What better way to have fun than to make it all around ice cream? And have they ever put a lot of work into setting up their fun! The trick is, they’ve also had their heart in it.
As past owners of several businesses in the area, including The Chip Shack just down the road, John and Karen are now retired and have made the decision to spend this part of there lives creating enjoyment for others, building their world with colour and, you guessed it, serving ice cream.
Karen has been in the Fort Erie area, since she was five years old and has since, come and gone. John, born in Niagara Falls, has lived in the Fort Erie area since the mid 70s. The couple have been in Ridgeway for six years.
John began explaining the beginning of this journey, “We’re into real estate and we bought this building three years ago,” referring to the building that is next to the alley, on the north side. “When we bought the building, it had two storefronts and we added four apartments in the back, where it had been vacant for years. The alleyway was just here. It wouldn’t even grow grass. It was moss and ugly. From day one we said, when we get everything else done, we’ve got to do something with the alleyway. It’s such a unique piece of downtown Ridgeway.”
Then John had started to ponder, there’s a storage room in the back with a door to the outside and a window. “It’s small, but big enough for an ice cream business. It just fell into place.”
They used the lockdown time to create their masterpiece, their Ice Cream Alley.
Where is it? Just look for the black rod iron gates. “When I try to explain where we are to people, we know, everyone seems to know where the rod iron gates are,” Karen said.
If you are walking or biking the Friendship Trail, The Ice Cream Alley is only three buildings from the trail.
Karen and John showed me the different step and pieces to their completion. Everything is painted, recycled and local. “Everything, John and I have created ourselves.”
We walked along the deck John built. Karen showed me the tiles hanging on the wall. “These will have the flavours of the ice cream painted on them.”
I was shown ladybug rocks at the front gate, hens and chickens next to a foot-shaped rock, ice cream cones on the wall made from shower puffs of all different colours and barn boards that came from a local barn.
The inside, even though customers will not be able to go into the little serving room, it is painted and decorated so that people can see it when they order, from outside the window, looking in. In there, I was shown ice cream cones on the wall made of Styrofoam balls and the overhead lamp that looks like a donut with sprinkles.
“We are planning on putting benches in front of the rod iron gates. Pointing to the little pond, Karen explained, “We’ll have fish in the pond.”
John commented, “We will be looking at three different brands of ice cream, all local, in Ontario; Shaw from Tillsonburg, Kawartha from Bobcaygeon and Central Smith from Lindsay.
Karen is excited that she will be able to hire teenagers. “My first job was in an ice cream store. I was so grateful for my first job.” And now she wants to give that back. “It’s also about the experience of learning about responsibility and how to deal with the public.
With just some needed equipment left to get, the couple plans on being ready to open in the first half of July.
“The big thing for us,” Karen shared, “is that we just want people to come here, and sit, and have fun. John and I are both did this to have fun. So it’s important, I want people to enjoy sitting here, enjoy being with their family and having an ice cream.”