Sundaes celebrates three decades of ice cream sales

Seekonk shop will recognize milestone with August 20 promotion ·

EAST PROVIDENCE — Celebrating three decades of anything is pretty special, so as the Sundaes Ice Cream Shops, owned and operated by the Schneider family of East Providence, recognizes the company’s beginnings you can’t fault them for feeling pretty good about what they’ve achieved.

Sundaes will hold a customer appreciation event Sunday, Aug. 20, at its Seekonk store from 1 to 3 p.m. Ice treats will be available for 30 cents. There will be face painting and balloon twisting as well. Customers can choose from over 30 flavors of soft serve and hard ice cream. One cone or cup per customer will be offered at the discounted price.

The Sundaes brand actually began in the summer of 1986 with its local shop on Route 44/Taunton Avenue just across the state line. Ken Schneider, who had built a successful ice cream truck business in the area after purchasing his first vehicle when he was 17 years old while still living in his hometown of Randolph, Mass., saw the locale was for sale and decided to pursue its purchase.

“Back in the day, when people actually still picked up the newspaper every day, I saw an ad for an ice cream shop for sale in Seekonk,” Mr. Schneider said. “I called the number and went over to look at it and decided I can do this.”

The Schneiders, including Ken’s wife Roberta, maintained both businesses at the start. They would load the trucks in the morning and open the shop at noon. Two years later, a second Sundaes was opened when Mr. Schneider saw in another newspaper ad a Cranston ice cream shop was similarly up for sale. It was around that time when the Schneiders settled into their Rumford home where they still reside. Previously they lived for a few years in Riverside. The Schneiders kept both sides of the operation going before selling the truck portion of the business in 1992. A third shop was eventually opened in the early aughts in Johnston and remains the last to have been started.

And though Sundaes has become a mainstay for area ice cream devotees of all likes (hard, soft serve, waffle or sugar cone) these 30 years later, it didn’t start that way.

“I can’t say business was booming,” Mr. Schneider said. “At first, it was pretty slow. I inherited a store that didn’t have the best reputation for service. I’ll never forget one lady that first year came up to me and said, ‘You know why I like this store?’ I was waiting for a nice compliment, and then she says, ‘Because I never have to wait in line.’

“Well, I never forgot that. I said to myself, ‘You wait, lady, because there’s gonna be long lines in this place one day.”

Mr. Schneider said the same woman remains a loyal customer (“She still comes to the store and has to wait in line,” Mr. Schneider said.) and he jokingly reminds her of that comment to this day. They share a relationship that actually explains a key to how the Schneiders’ operate their business.

“I would like to say people drive a hundred miles to get our ice cream, but that’s no true,” Mr. Schneider said. “It may sound cliche, but it’s about the customer service, the people who work in the stores, and a good old smile. We try to hire the nicest and best people, best kids, to work our stores. They know what our regulars are going to order and they have it ready for them by the time they get to the window. That’s what our customers appreciate, the service and the quality of our product.”

Mr. Schneider gave special recognition to his three stores managers: Seekonk's Sam Perdono, his daughter Lindsay Schneider in Cranston, and Alicia Barbieri in Johnston. "They are all an integral part of the team and our success," he said.

Acknowledging the 30th anniversary of the company’s growth has given Mr. Schneider a moment to reflect and appreciate both the Sundaes brand and the patrons who have made it a thriving operation.

“I take lot of pride in the business and the reward is people keep coming to the store,” Mr. Schneider added. “People like what we do and we also change with the times. At first people were like, ‘Yogurt? What’s that?’ And now we offer gluten free products, Kosher products. We offer a wide variety. It makes me feel really proud to have done this for so long. I’m amazed I’ve been selling ice cream for all these years. It’s fantastic. And a lot of it has to do with having a lot of loyal customers, a lot of regulars who have supported us through the years.”