1680 Union (but it is really on Belvedere)
The minute I noticed the pink and brown sign indicating that a Baskin Robbins was opening in the new shopping complex on the corner of Union and Belvedere, I started going out of my way to drive by and check the progress.
A few weeks ago I noticed a “Now Hiring” sign. Then there was butcher paper covering all of the windows with a sign reading “Training in Progress.” Finally, a few days ago, I saw the “Now Open” sign.
Last night, after the monkeys (Satchel, 4, and Jiro, 2) made happy plates (at home), Warren and I happily loaded them into the car to go to the “Ice Cream Store.” “How many minutes will it take?” Satchel asked from the backseat. (This is his new favorite question.)
“Just two,” I said, thinking how nice it was to have a Baskin Robbins so close. We hardly ever make it out to the one on Summer.
As we entered the parking lot, we were immediately caught up in a traffic jam. There were several cars leaving the BR and several more trying to get in. The inside was packed full of people and children of all ages. “Listen,” I said. “Make sure you order something you really like because I’m not sharing.” (The last time we went to BR, both of the monkeys tried to steal my mint chocolate chip ice cream cone.)
Once inside, I saw a family we know from the good ol’ days at Skateland Summer. “How’s the ice cream?” I asked the mom.
“It’s great,” Mary said. “But the best part is that the workers are practically jumping over the counter because they are so eager to serve you.”
“Oh yeah, I like that,” I said.
It was never like that at the old BR on Union. Warren had once said in astonishment, “I just don’t understand how a Baskin Robbins goes out of business.”
“Well, let me give you an example,” I said. “One time I went in on a Sunday afternoon. The air-conditioning was broken and my ice cream cone was half melted before they ever handed it over the counter.”
“Did they charge full price?” he asked.
I looked around the brand new BR and took in the shineyness for a moment. I was surprised to see that there was no kiddie style table or coloring books or anything like that. I’ve seen stuff like that at TCBY and Ben & Jerry’s, but never at a Baskin Robins. I just thought since it was new, it might be fancy. I let it go quickly since BR can certainly get by just by virtue of its yummy ice cream. I did get a little nostalgic for the patio at the BR on Summer. (Why is everything on Summer Avenue so cool?)
I approached the freezers with a salivating Jiro. I barely had time to look in the window before an extremely eager young man came up and asked, “May I help you?” Jiro furiously started to grunt and point at the ice cream. “Do you want to taste something? Here, most kids like this one,” he said as he grabbed a tiny pink spoon and filled it with BLUE ice cream.
I had really wanted to avoid the blue ice cream, but decided to be a sport. Warren and Satchel made their way over to where we were and Satchel announced that he wanted strawberry. Then he saw Jiro’s taster spoon. “I want one of those!” he said, pointing. The young man gave him a taste of orange sherbert thanks to Warren’s bidding. They both seemed to like their samples and I ordered them each a cone. The monkeys sat down at the table with their cones and picked away at the ice cream with their tiny sample spoons while I ordered mint chocolate chip and Warren got double brownie something.
By the time we were all four sitting down, Satchel had grown tired of his orange sherbert. I reminded him that I wasn’t sharing. His attempts to grab Jiro’s blue cone had been met with screams. He started in on Warren. “Can I have a bite of yours?” he asked innocently. Warren obliged and then made a big show of saying how delicious orange sherbert was, hoping that Satchel would want it back if someone else liked it. It was a good strategy, but it failed.
I finished my cone and watched as Warren begrudgingly finished the orange sherbert. Jiro’s mouth and nose were completely blue and as he slowly savored each bite, it was clear that he was in heaven. Satchel’s mouth and nose were brown and he too appeared to be quite content. I took this opportunity to count how many people there were behind the counter. Eight! (The TCBY across the street didn’t stand a chance!)
The monkeys eventually finished their ice cream and I took them to the bathroom to wash up. (I always have to check out the bathrooms.) Despite my disappointment with the dining area, I pictured a really fancy family style bathroom with a changing table. I found a measley one-top that was already semi-trashed. There was a big brown smear on the sink that I prayed was chocolate ice cream. (Even the fancy Ben and Jerry’s in Germantown doesn’t have a changing table.)
On our way out, the monkeys admired the freezers full of cakes. “I want to show you which one I like,” Satchel said as his eyes lit up. He pointed to a white cake with oreos and I made a mental note, happy he hadn’t spotted the ice cream clown cones.
I picked Jiro up and aimed for the door, but he lunged his body towards the ice cream bins. I let him take one more peek so he wouldn’t be so quick to get the blue ice cream next time. Satchel came bounding over too and spotted the pink bubble gum ice cream. “I want some of that!” he said grabbing a big pink spoon off of the counter. Jiro grabbed a big spoon too and started tapping the window. I looked for one of the eight workers to see if I could get them a small taste, but they were all huddled over the far back counter for some kind of lesson. (TCBY might stand a chance after all.)
Finally, I got the attention of a spunky young woman and secured the final tasters for the boys and got them out the door. (Once, when I was twelve, I tasted every one of the thirty-one flavors. I even kept the spoons and made a necklace out of them.) As we buckled them in, Warren noticed the “Half gallon special: $4” sign on the door. “How much was the ice cream?” he asked me.
“$6.07,” I said.
“We could have gotten an entire half gallon for less,” he remarked.
“Yeah, but we wouldn’t have gotten the fabulous dining-in experience,” I said.
“Next time, let’s get a half gallon and four big pink spoons and just sit at the table,” he said.
“That’s not a bad idea!” I said.
The Pei Wei Asian Diner next door to the BR opens on Monday, May 15th. Stay tuned!