Why can’t we get ice cream during coronashutdown?

The only way that I am able to demonstrate my usefulness to children is taking them to ice cream shops. Recently, however, this has been a failure. On the first warm Sunday of what we here in Massachusetts jokingly call “spring”, it took 30 minutes to get a few cups. Where the shop previously would have had perhaps 4 or 5 people working behind the counter, only 2 soldiered on, perhaps unaware that unemployment now pays much better than scooping obesity. They had no soft-serve, which is what my customers actually wanted, and wouldn’t put the ice cream into cones, but would put cones into a bag and let customers reconfigure their ice cream once in a secure location.

Earlier this week, I took the kids to Bob Lobster, a seaside shack with picnic tables (closed off with yellow tape against a virus that survives only 30 seconds in sunlight; people are supposed to eat in their cars) that is walking distance from 2B2. There is a tempting ice cream cone sign outside. They had no ice cream to sell. I said “After we get back to Hanscom, I’ll take you to McDonald’s on 128 and we can get McFlurries.” McDonald’s had no ice cream to sell.

What’s going on? If sales at fast food outlets are down at least 50 percent, why don’t they have ice cream? Is it that all of the workers are at home soaking up unemployment and there aren’t enough to clean the soft serve machines?

A few snapshots from the trip. All of the bumper stickers are from one car.

Update: Success in Maynard, MA! With a minimal wait, we obtained four legal cups of take-out ice cream with edge-of-the-law cones stuck on top (not legal to serve ice cream in a cone, apparently).

16 thoughts on “Why can’t we get ice cream during coronashutdown?

  1. Try going to Wendy’s. The store near me still has soft serve ice cream. I get a medium cup. No cones though. But beware the workers have no masks and are taking few if any precautions.

    So you gave up and took the kids for a short flying trip. Bet they were not pleased with no ice cream cones. Be careful the kids may make you put some of those stickers on your car and then your liberal friends will mount attacks.

  2. You really don’t ever think about anything except from your point of view, do you?

    Just because you were there doesn’t mean their sales aren’t down 80% and if that’s the case why would they have a bunch of kids sitting around ready to scoop for no customers?

    Do open your own ice cream shop if you want to “do it your way”.

  3. Oh and you don’t read very well either.

    A study suggests that ultraviolet rays could slow the virus, though not enough to wipe it out, and not as a treatment. … Sunlight ***and disinfectants*** — including bleach and alcohol — can kill the coronavirus on surfaces in as little as 30 seconds

  4. Bob Lobster sources their ice cream locally, from Richardson’s Farm, in Reading and Middleton.


    I’m speculating that as a small operation that supplies lots of small, local markets and restaurants they’ve been hit hard by the shutdown.
    Also, and not incidentally, they don’t mention it on their website but the owner, William Daniels (age 82) died of COVID-19 in an assisted living facility on April 17.

    McDonald’s has a complex supply chain for all its products including milk and dairy and the industry as a whole has seen big shocks with farmers dumping milk. McFlurries are based on their soft-serve ice cream which is shipped pre-made to the franchises:


    “At store level, you start with a bag-in-box liquid ice cream mix. This contains all the ingredients for soft-serve ice cream minus the air, which is readily available from the atmosphere. Pour this liquid into a machine that costs more than many new cars.”

    This wasn’t an answer so I called my local McDonald’s. They have McFlurries in three flavors! I told the nice woman on the phone about the Dad whose kids think he’s useless because McDonald’s let them down, and she said: “Well, I’m not sure if that location was corporate or franchise. McDonald’s is limiting some of its ice cream offerings at corporate restaurants, and others are not selling cones or sundaes. We’re only selling McFlurries but don’t have any problem with the supply right now.” Not really a deep answer but at least you know it’s not a statewide thing.

    Surprised the local restaurant didn’t offer an explanation at the drive-thru.

  5. Sorry for the multiple posts, but I watched the History slideshow at Richardson’s Farm website and what a sad thing to realize that it’s a family-owned business spanning 9 generations that began in the late 1600s!

    “The Richardsons came to America in 1636 [only 16 years after Plymouth Colony] after having been farmers in England. They first stopped in Charlestown and then helped settle the pasture lands of Woburn.”

    It would be a real tragedy if coronavirus takes them out of business after more than 300 years.


    “For the first few generations in Middleton, the Richardsons were mostly subsistence farmers: milking cows, raising chickens, vegetables and any other food needed to sustain the family through their normal daily activities. From those humble beginnings we continue on today. The Richardson’s have milked cows in Middleton every day since his arrival (more than 300 years or 109,500 days straight).”

  6. Here in SE MA the shops are open with various levels of stupidity. Most are cups only, some cups only with cones on the side, two that I know of will serve in cones. One place is stay in your car and call in your ice cream order, umm no thank you.
    Ice cream to go kills the whole vibe and I think the places that are ‘take out only, wink wink, yes we will serve in cones’ will do much better than the take out only nazis.

  7. Well . . . this is a disappointingly detailed and reasonable explanation for why Phil couldn’t get ice cream for his kids. While reading Phil’s post, I was thinking; This is a heck of a mystery. Indeed I thought it could quite possibly be a scandal of some sort that if made into a TV documentary, could give “The Tiger King” a run for its money as the most-viewed documentary of the year. Now, Alex, you’ve reported that there are ordinary and sad (William Daniels’ death) reasons for ice cream being missing. Nothing to see here . . . let alone on TV.

  8. Speaking of the 17th century, if your kids complain too much about the ice cream, you could remind them that although coronavirus seems like a big disruption worthy of throwing the United States into a paroxysm of panic here in the 21st century, it was a lot worse when the Richardsons got started.

    Reading for an overcast New England “spring” Sunday:


    “Average life expectancy at birth for English people in the late
    16th and early 17th centuries was just under 40 – 39.7 years.
    However, this low figure was mostly due to the high rate
    of infant and child mortality; over 12% of all children born
    would die in their first year.”

    “Modern experts theorize that newborns were likely to die
    of birth trauma, including tetanus, caused by the use of an
    unsterilized knife or pair of scissors to cut the umbilical cord;
    prematurity or low birth weight; or an inherited birth defect.
    Other typical period causes of death were convulsions or fits,
    breeding teeth, thrush and worms.”

    By 1787 – the distant future for anyone who arrived in America in 1636, things weren’t much better:


    “Medicine is something practiced at home. Calling a doctor is regarded as a signal that death is near. And the germ theory of disease is still 100 years in the future.”

  9. Wind up the old chopper Phil and take the little ones down to Chinatown Ice Cream Factory in NYC’s Chinatown — it has been open the entire holiday. Usually there is a line out the door but business seems slow since all the gweilo have left Chinatown — no Jerseyites hunting down sweet and sour pork or spare ribs & the Chinese are not all that big on dairy.

    • Thanks, Toucan. We can only hope that Donald Trump and Mike Pence will realize that they are unfit to meet the challenge of coronavirus and abdicate in favor of President Pelosi.

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