Hello again from the land of the chocolate lolli. It’s been five weeks since my last confession, check that, since my last entry into the diary. The few weeks of Valentine’s Day prep followed by this last week of actual Valentine’s traffic have kept me straight out. Even though I’m single, Valentine’s Day was very good to me this year. The weather cooperated. It even hit the low 40’s for V-day weekend, a veritable heat wave. (I can hear my brother Mike, who just moved to Florida, snickering right now). I was much better prepared than for Christmas. My arsenal was loaded with all kinds of chocolates and Valentine-themed candy (conversation hearts, red and white candy corn, that kind of thing). Carl the baker delivered a treasure-trove of truffles (say that 9 times fast). I salvaged all the Valentine stock I could find buried in my basement, supplemented by some strategic purchases from the local Christmas Tree Shop, and I was ready to make heroes out of boyfriends and girlfriends throughout Easthampton. I even pre-packed boxes of chocolates. Those came in handy, especially during the Friday after-work rush hour. I was a little nervous about Valentine’s Day actually, since I had given Betty the day off. She asked me for it just before I was about to ask her to cover the shop for me while I went to Key West for a buddy’s wedding, so I really couldn’t say no. To cut a long story short, V-day (and the few days leading up) went very well. I was slammed only once or twice. Business was steady but generally a comfortable continuous flow. Wait a tick, I shouldn’t have said ‘slammed’. I was corrected that the hot new lingo is ‘in the weeds’. I was only ‘in the weeds’ a couple times this past week. Thanks to Leslie, the Innkeeper turned candle maker, for setting my slang straight.
Speaking of Key West, my long-weekend getaway to attend buddies Mark and Marissa’s elopement/wedding went off without a hitch. First time leaving my baby alone. Well, she wasn’t actually alone. Betty covered for me, opened and closed the shop all weekend. Looks like she’s a shoe-in for employee of the month again. Seems the only one who missed me that weekend was Calli, Mom’s cat, who’s taken over my apartment since the folks migrated to Florida. I gave Calli plenty of food before I left, but being on the plump side, she likely consumed it all before I even got to the airport. When I returned from the weekend, she was so hungry she ate a Wasabi Pea out of my hand.
The new apartment is working out very well. Gotta love the 28 step commute. Although I’m thinking it’d be neat to install a ‘Wonka-vator’ to take me back and forth. Then again, if I did that, I’d probably have to hire midgets to run it.
You didn’t think I’d go a whole installment without a midget reference did you?
I was talking with one of my young customers the other day, and I happened to mention that I live upstairs. With eyes wide as Mom’s cat, he responded, “You mean you can get ice cream and candy whenever you want? Wow, you have the greatest job in the world.” Who was I to argue.
Someone came in the other day asking for a candy called ‘Squirrels’. Can anyone help me with this? The only squirrels I know are the ones my Dad traps in the backyard as part of his squirrel relocation program. Add candy ‘squirrels’ to the growing list of candy candidates for the store. Chocolate-covered licorice, Chocolate-covered Gummi-bears, chocolate cashews, multi-colored Jordan Almonds, caramel popcorn, there’s no end…
Some more firsts to add to my list this month…my first brochure – fun. My first Mt. Tom ‘JimArt’ framed photographs on the wall – very fun. My first quarterly 941 and meals tax payments – not fun. My first accountant, Lawrence – not supposed to be fun. Stay tuned for next month’s firsts… my first corporate by-laws, annual report, and K1 – fun?…Time will tell. I’m guessing, not.
I did my first radio show gig last week. I got to appear, (well I didn’t actually appear, it was radio), on a show called Donnie’s Used Cars on the local rock station WRNX. As I was driving into the studio, I listened to the beginning of the show. Donnie and his sidekick John bragged about getting ice cream. When I got to the studio, I peered through the big window of the booth to see these 2 guys talking into their radio microphones. When Donnie saw me, I held up the ice cream tubs. The next line I hear from the radio speakers in the room is, ‘The ice cream is here!’. I get the hand wave from Donnie and enter the sound booth. I introduce myself to the guys and proceed to serve them up dishes of my homemade mint chocolate chip, cookie dough, and coffee (I’d been tipped off on their favorite flavors). With a Jack Johnson tune playing in the background and over the airwaves, we chatted about my new business. They feasted on my product. They absolutely loved it. Even better, after the song was over, they proceeded to tell the entire Pioneer Valley (well, at least everyone who was listening to WRNX at 4 pm on a Monday) how much they loved it. After the next song break, Donnie and I chatted on the air. I told him briefly how I make ice cream (as if I’d been doing it my whole life!), and we bantered about my new business at 34 Cottage Street, Easthampton. I think it went well, although I can’t remember a word of what I said on the air. I was just happy I didn’t use that ‘my calling wasn’t even calling when it was drunk and horny’ line while we were live. Just after my spot was done and while I was serving up the rest of the studio staff, a singer named Matt Nathanson came into the studio and proceeded to do a live acoustic set on the air. As I drove home after this cool new life experience, Donnie continued to tout my ice cream on the radio. It was a bit surreal to hear him talking about this guy Jim and his great ice cream. A few people who came in later that week talked about hearing me on the radio, so it definitely was good for business. My first three minutes of multi-media ice cream fame.
I had my first secret inspection recently. No, it wasn’t from the health inspector. Good guess though. A gentleman came into the shop one day and asked for a half dozen hazelnut truffles from the case. As per usual, I loaded them up on the scale and punched in the price. As I reached for a box , he reached for his badge. Turns out, he was an inspector from the Massachusetts Division of Standards. State House address on his business card and everything. Seems they’ve been getting a lot of complaints about candy stores including the weight of the box in the total bill. It’s called ‘tare’ as in ‘tear away’ and seems you can get in big trouble if you don’t do it. Unless of course you’re Justin and Janet, then you get in big trouble if you do do it.
One of the root beer float kids came into the shop on Valentine’s Day. Instead of his trusty and chubby sidekick, the ‘Stand by Me’ kid was with two young ladies. The girls ordered up dishes of ice cream, then the three retreated to the more secluded table in front of the far window. It seemed odd that Rudy the Root Beer Kid wasn’t indulging. Was he on the wagon, I wondered. Couldn’t be, this guy lived for his root beer floats. After some subtle study of the situation, I realized that Rudy just didn’t have the money for his favorite teenage cocktail. I seized my opportunity to do a good deed and poured/scooped up a float for our favorite customer. I walked over to their table, sat his ‘usual’ in front of him, and said ‘this one’s on the house’. It was as if I’d just given him a kidney. He was as giddy as the schoolboy he pretended not to be. I thought this tough looking kid with the slicked back hair was going to hug me. He insisted he would pay me for it next time. I told him, don’t even worry about it. What I was thinking and wanted to say was, ‘if you only knew…’
In fact, an old friend of mine and new Ice Cream Diaries subscriber, Emily, was in the shop last weekend when Rudy came in. It was funny to see her reaction when I said, ‘that’s the root beer float kid over there’. It was like she’d just spotted a celebrity. Perhaps she did.
I joined the Easthampton Chamber of Commerce this month. It’s all about the network. I attended my first Chamber event last Wednesday. It was a retirement party for Marlene, a woman who’d been with the group for eighteen years. It was really heartwarming to listen to friends and coworkers, even my electrical consultant – the town Mayor, showering her with praise and parting gifts. It was great to be surrounded by Easthampton business owners and locals who are just plain excited about their town and how far its come, especially in the last couple years. There’s just a ton of hometown pride here. When I refer to someone as a ‘townie’ now, it’s a good thing. I swear if this place were in black and white, it’d be Pleasantville.
I know I’m blaming the Valentine’s rush on my delay in catching up with my diary entries, but I should probably come clean on the real reason. I just got cable. It came with a free month of digital cable, with every channel known to man. So instead of writing about the hundreds of solid chocolate heart ring boxes I made and sold last week, I’ve been glued to ‘Hooray for Chocolate’ week on the Food Network and watching the movie ‘Novocain’ for the tenth time. The good news is I now know how to make chocolate scallops. I just switched back to basic cable, so I’m finally able to bring you issue seven. I do miss that new show, “The L Word’ on Showtime though, darn.
Speaking of Valentine’s rush (sick of this theme yet?), I had to bring some of my work home one night last week. Yep, while I watched that movie ‘The American President’ for the sixth time that week, I wrapped and tied the 38 chocolate lollipops I’d made that day. Work, work, work. Another hazard of the new job, chocolate under my fingernails. Hate when that happens.
Good news. I have another favorite regular. A ten year old boy named Thomas. Or ‘Vanilla with extra hot fudge’ as I like to call him. Nice kid. Very polite. Loves his hot fudge. The first time he asked for extra, I gave him a good strong pour. Before I could turn to him with his loaded sundae, he says ‘can I have a little more’. When I finally handed him the heavy glass bowl, hot fudge was overflowing onto my hand. Nothing less will do for the ‘extra hot fudge’ kid. When I asked him what his name was, he said ‘Thomas’, and proceeded to ask for my name. As he was leaving, he said confidently, ‘thank you Jim’. A born salesman.
Speaking of the greatest, some of my customers have told me that Mt. Tom’s Homemade is the best ice cream they’ve ever tasted. You’re probably thinking, ‘wow, Jim’s starting to get a bit full of himself, as well as ice cream, these days’. The reason I mention this is because the compliments really go to my Dad. He invented my flavors and introduced me to all the best ingredients to use. He’s somewhere in Florida right now, golfing or floating around a pool somewhere and working on his tan, so he can’t be here in not-quite-so-balmy New England right now to accept the praise. Ice Cream kudos to Dad.
Well, I could continue to ramble on and on, especially since there’s nothing on my eight basic cable TV channels tonight, but I should probably let you get back to work.
As always, thanks for listening.
Hope to see you soon.