Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Downtown ice cream shop to close

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
August 22, 2006

VERNON - After nearly four years in business, Loom City Creamery will sell its last scoop of ice cream Wednesday.

The downtown Rockville ice cream shop, which opened in the fall of 2002, is closing up shop, Brian R. Motola, one of the owners, said.

Motola said today that business had started to decline during the warmer weather months.

Because ice cream shops are seasonal in nature, Motola said, weak "peak" seasons made it difficult for the business to sustain itself during the winter.

Although the ice cream shop saw business pick up during events such as the Rockville Downtown Association's summer concert series, Motola said there wasn't enough foot traffic in the store on a nightly basis.

"We gave it a good try," said Motola, who is also a member of the Town Council. "Ice cream is a seasonable product. You couldn't make enough in the summer to support you in the winter."

Motola said he started the business not to make money, but as a way to help generate interest and vitality in downtown.

And despite the business's closure, Motola said, he would still remain active in the RDA and other downtown ventures.
Motola said an ice cream shop or other food business still could be successful downtown if officials were committed to tidying up the commercial district and encouraging business owners to maintain their properties.

"You can hit the homeruns, but you've also got to do the fundamentals," Motola said, using a baseball analogy. "As Rockville goes, Vernon goes."

The ice cream shop is not the only food-based business in Rockville having trouble this year: the future of the Boston Bakery is back in limbo.

In April, the landmark bakery relocated its retail operations to the ice cream shop's 29 W. Main St. location.

But the brother/sister team that operated the bakery couldn't make a go of it and operations at the ice cream shop stopped several weeks later, said Bryan Flint, the owner of the Ward Street building that once housed the bakeshop.

The landmark bakery has gone through several rebirths during the past 20 months as a variety of people have tried to jumpstart the business, which shut down in January 2000 after doing business in town for more than 50 years.

With Loom City Creamery's impending closure, officials will try one more time to rent the bakery's Ward Street building.

Flint, who is also Mayor Ellen L. Marmer's Rockville advisor, said if the site can't be used as a viable bakery or other food-service business, it likely would be sold and converted to apartments.

"We're trying everything we can," Flint said. "People are always looking for rents in this area. It's just tough to have a business anywhere."

Saying he was sorry to see the ice cream shop close, Flint praised Motola for his attempt to operate a business in downtown Rockville.

Although Motola had a good product, Flint said, it's tough for service businesses to succeed downtown because of a lack of foot traffic and a lack of other retail shops to draw people to the central business district.

"He really was putting his money where his mouth was," Flint said of Motola. "What you need is a lot more critical mass."

RDA Executive Director Randy Anagnostis said today that he also was sorry to hear the news of the ice cream shop's closure.

Noting the seasonal nature of the ice cream business, Anagnostis said a similar business might be able to succeed downtown with a different set of circumstances.

"It's very disappointing to see a business that has been supportive of downtown not make it financially and have to close up shop," Anagnostis said. "

Nestled in a storefront opposite Central Park and Town Hall, Motola and two local residents, Penny Ouellette and Sheila Thompson, opened the ice cream shop in October 2002 with the hopes of creating a more vital downtown.

When it opened, the shop offered a variety of locally themed products.

Among them was the "Town Without Pity," a six-scoop, 15-topping sundae named after a song popularized by the late Gene Pitney, a Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer and Rockville native.

Another local offering was the "Fox Hill Tower," a four-scoop, five-topping waffle bowl sundae named after the 72-foot high tower at Henry Park dedicated to veterans of all wars.

Roughly two years after opening up shop, the creamery outgrew its original space at 27 W. Main St. and moved to a new location next door.

With the additional space - the new store was four times the size of the original - the ice cream shop added a deli showcase and several tables to accommodate customers who wanted to sit down and enjoy their sandwich or ice cream treat.

©Journal Inquirer 2006