(A/N: This article was printed in the July 13th issue of the Reading Eagle. http://www.readingeagle.com/ontap/article/sweet-ride-ice-cream-opens-shop-in-west-reading)
By: Rosalba Ugliuzza, Reading Eagle Correspondent
You may have spotted Chris and Angie Farrell’s ice cream bike at City Park.
Or, you might have caught a glimpse of their ice cream trailer at West Reading Fall Fest.
Now, the Farrells have parked their Sweet Ride at 542 Penn Ave.
In April, the Sinking Spring husband-and-wife team opened Sweet Ride Ice Cream at the former site of Yoas Services Inc. The West Reading shop is an addition to their current bike and mobile parlor business.
The name Sweet Ride culminates all the services the Farrells provide on and off the wheels.
“We want to make people happy when they’re visiting,” Chris said.
Ice cream aficionados of all ages can have an enjoyable dessert experience when they walk in the door. The super-premium ice cream comes from Nelson’s Dutch Farms, a family-owned business from Montgomery County.
While hand-dipped ice cream is its focus, with more than 20 flavors to choose from, the shop also has freshly baked cookies, chocolate marshmallows, floats, banana splits, sundaes, nondairy raspberry sorbet for vegans, sugar-free selections for diabetics, Philadelphia-based Peddler coffee and more.
The most popular flavors are the graham slam and coffee, while the ice cream-flavored milkshakes and banana-peanut butter chips are also doing well.
“We try to have something for everyone,” Angie said.
Sweet Ride Ice Cream is not your typical fast-food ice cream place. There’s a separate room for parties and other special gatherings. There have been three parties since the store’s opening.
Dose of nostalgia
Behind the counter is a 1946 soda fountain, where the sweet beverage is handcrafted with carbonated water and soda syrup. This vintage object – along with the shop’s classic ice cream mixer and black, white and blue decor – give a dose of nostalgia to the older customers.
“We just had an older couple, and they were like: ‘We love sitting there,'” Angie said. “They sit (by the counter) every time they come in. Another couple has said, ‘We feel like we are on a date.'”
“What’s nice is for the older generation when they come in the store, they’ll reminisce a lot,” Chris said. “They talk about the different soda fountains they went to around the city when they were young. You’ll hear young kids say to their parents: ‘Oh, we’ve never been to an ice cream store like this before.'”
Board games are available for kids and their families and friends while they indulge in delectable desserts.
Idea of opening
The Reading High School alums got the idea of opening an ice cream business while on a beach vacation in the summer of 2013. According to Chris, a 1990 graduate, a girl arrived at the dunes to sell ice cream to beachgoers.
“I’m a schoolteacher looking to make some money over the summer, so I said to Angie (a 1992 graduate): ‘Well, I should get an ice cream bike,'” Chris said. “I was just sort of joking. But the idea kind of stuck in my head when we came back from vacation, so I started looking into it.”
His research had found that ice cream bikes were popular at weddings and other formal events in England. This gave the couple an idea to try the same thing in the Reading area by purchasing a vintage ice cream bike from Worksman Cycles in Ozone Park, N.Y.
The bike is utilized for outdoor and indoor events, and serves between 100 to 200 customers.
“It’s always neat when we arrive,” Angie said. “It has the old-time bells on it. It makes a statement. It really adds a fun and unique dessert experience to the special events.”
The Farrells have sold ice cream at baseball tournaments, parties and Bandshell Concert Series at City Park.
It is a hit at weddings. After their ice cream bike service became a success, they decided to kick their business up a notch by getting a mobile ice cream parlor.
Their parlor is a trailer that serves super-premium, hand-dipped ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet to companies, organizations and special events. Fat-free, gluten-free and sugar-free options are available as well as sundaes, custom ice cream cookie sandwiches and floats.
“We were thinking: What can we do when we go to companies that have hundreds of employees, on a bigger scale?” Angie said. “With our mobile ice cream parlor, we have a window side just like a regular food truck, but then on the other side we have two doors that open, and we put steps out. For special events, we have customers enter the parlor.”
Customers can select what type of flavor they would like and then exit the trailer. The mobile parlor has traveled to places such as Harrisburg, West Chester and Philadelphia, serving ice cream at fundraisers, graduations, weddings and more.
“People really love that concept,” Angie said. “There isn’t anything around here like it.”
In April, Angie quit her job as a paralegal to manage the ice cream business full time. Chris is a full-time television and video production teacher at Exeter Township Senior High School.
When it comes to the ice cream business, Chris said, “I help out as much as I can.”
Chris and Angie, who have three sons, thank their families for their huge support and help in making their business come to life.
The Farrells hope their customers can have a good time at Sweet Ride, whether they are on a date, with friends or with family.
“Just enjoy being together, and be happy,” Angie said.
If you go
Co-owners: Chris and Angie Farrell
Location: 542 Penn Ave., West Reading
Hours: Mondays to Thursdays, noon to 8:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 10 p.m., and Sundays, noon to 8 p.m.