August 12, 2005
Carvel comes to Houston

Actually, the venerable ice cream franchise is already here, with plans to expand quite a bit in the near term.

Before Linda Eppolito opened her ice cream shop in west Houston, a stranger knocked on the door and asked, breathlessly, "Is this really Carvel? The Carvel from New York?"

Since opening less than a year ago, Eppolito has seen many East Coast transplants walk in. Currently, they comprise three out of 10 of her customers. Initially, the percentage of East Coast natives was much greater.

"You'll know it when they'll come in," she once told her employees, referring to the transplants. "They're very excited."

Maybe it's the taste of the soft-serve ice cream, or maybe it's the memories. Something makes ex-East Coast residents go ga-ga when they discover a Carvel in their neighborhood.

Currently, Eppolito's store in the 1500 block of Eldridge is the only Carvel franchise in town, but in a few weeks, a second location will open in the FM 1960 area at Windermere Lakes Plaza.

Carvel plans to open 25 to 30 more stores in the Houston area in the next two or three years, according to a company spokesman.

Like Kyrie, I grew up with Carvel ice cream. Well, sort of. Though there was a Carvel store a half mile or so from our house - I passed it by every time I walked to my buddy Anthony's place - we just about never went there when I was a kid. (It was at the corner of Forest and Bard Avenues, for those of you familiar with Staten Island's geography. Anyone know if it's still there?) I remember my dad snorting derisively whenever a Carvel commercial, narrated by old Tom Carvel himself of course, came on the TV. Never knowing the genesis of his distaste, I emailed to inquire after seeing this story. Turns out a couple of his lawyer pals regularly butted heads with Tom Carvel back in the day, and they had many stories of what a hardnosed SOB he could be. So we kids ate ice cream at home, not that this was a bad thing since my parents' preferred brand was Breyer's. But I digress.

Anyway, having been ignorant of all that, I confess I stopped at that neighborhood store a few times on the walk back from Anthony's, and as I have a weakness for soft serve ice cream, I've no doubt that I'll pull in for a cone the first time I drive by one of these new franchises. I'll pass on Fudgie the Whale, though - I liked Baskin Robbins ice cream cakes better. Sorry, Kyrie.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 12, 2005 to Food, glorious food | TrackBack

Houston will always be Blue Bell country. No two ways about it. Surprised to actually learn that Carvel had been in town (what, they couldn't alert me personally?), especially since I don't see much of their product around town.

Posted by: Greg Wythe on August 12, 2005 7:57 AM

I don't live on the North Shore, but the store is still there according to the web site. Unfortunately, Carvel is like Nathan's in that the quality has gone way down as the franchises have gone up. You can also find the cakes in a lot of supermarkets.

I preferred Baskin-Robbins as far as an ice cream chain as well, but my brother has a special reason to be a fan of the 31 flavors. He met his wife while she was working there in the mid 1980s. Even more interestingly, on the day of my brother's wedding, my aunt and uncle were looking for the candy store where they first met. It turned out to be where the Baskin-Robbins was located.

A final irony is your parents' preference for Breyers. The brand has a special meaning in my family since my father worked for Breyers/Sealtest in Long Island City for more than 20 years.

Posted by: William Hughes on August 12, 2005 7:57 AM

Oh my. Carvel ice cream cakes. With that chocolate crunchy stuff between the layers. Loooooove the crunchy stuff between the layers. We frequently had Carvel ice cream cakes for birthdays when I was growing up. The icing on always ooked me out a bit, because it looks funny (probably because of having to freeze it), but the rest of it was fabulous.

Posted by: Sue on August 12, 2005 8:01 AM

Talk about earworms. 20+ years later I now have "Wednesday is Sundae at Carvel" in my head.

Posted by: Kyle on August 12, 2005 10:29 AM

Fudgie the whale, huh? Now that Daily Show joke from about a week ago makes sense.

Posted by: Cincinnatus on August 12, 2005 2:47 PM

In a similar vein, I grew up with Krispy Kreme in South Carolina and consequently did not understand all of the hullabaloo when their stores started showing up in Houston. Talk about boring doughnuts.

Posted by: Andrea the Terrible on August 12, 2005 3:42 PM

What the hell is Carvel? :-D

Posted by: Jim D on August 12, 2005 8:46 PM

Hey..Carvel is now selling cakes at Belden's in Braeswood square...I hear they are made at the store hear in town....and Katz's deli is also carrying some Carvel products...Blue not even close to the taste of Carvel. Carvel softserve is incredible!!!...Van and choc..soft serve.totally beats Marble Slab, Baskin Robins, Cold Stone The cakes with the fudge are excellent!

Posted by: michelle on February 9, 2006 6:43 PM

Carvel is the best ice cream in the world!! I grew up in New York and that is the only ice cream we ever ate!! Vanilla soft serve with rainbow sprinkles is the my favorite and ice cream cakes with crunchies is a necessity for every birthday and celebration!!! Awesome that the Carvel store is supplying other places like Katz's and Belden's. In Queens, NY you could get your Carvel fix anytime since there were so many stores around. Now we just need to get them into Kenny and Ziggy's and New York Pizza so we can get that great ice cream wherever we are in town. I can't wait to go check them out. Fudgie the Whale and Cookie Puss here I come! Now all we need is a White Castle................

Posted by: Terri on July 29, 2006 2:03 AM