When temperatures soared on Long Island in the 70s, there was no better oasis than inside the confines of a Carvel store. Boasting some of the finest soft-serve ice cream on the planet, along with a selection of memorable novelty items and cakes, Carvel has kept Long Islanders cool for over 75 years, and helped them celebrate many a special occasion.
The story begins with Thomas A. Carvelas, a Greek immigrant with a passion for ice cream. He sold it from trucks at first, then his own store in Hartsdale. He also invented the process by which to create soft-serve ice cream and was the first to promote the new delicacy at his Carvel stores, which where starting to multiply.
If that had been Tom’s only contribution, it would have been enough, but he enjoyed the spotlight and, by the 50s, was appearing in his own television commercials. His warm and engaging personality played well for the TV cameras, as Tom was clearly having a lot of fun selling ice cream.
He was also having fun creating some pretty memorable (and humorously named) novelty items. He created a round ice cream sandwich he called the Flying Saucer. Or you could order a Brown Bonnet or Cherry Bonnet, which consisted of an ice cream cone dipped in either a chocolate or cherry layer of goodness. A Tortoni featured ice cream covered in toasted coconut and an Icy Wycy was perfect for sherbet lovers.
Where Carvel really made an impact was on the millions of ice cream cakes that helped New Yorkers celebrate just about every holiday, thanks to Tom’s wisdom in marketing a different cake for each one. Besides the regular round and rectangle varieties, there were also some classics that were introduced in the 70s.
The three most memorable cakes of the decade were the Cookie Puss, Fudgie the Whale and the Hug-Me Bear. There was also Tom the Turkey for Thanksgiving, Snow Man for Christmas, and Wicky the Witch for Halloween. Suffice to say, if you attended a birthday party, a holiday gathering, an anniversary, or any other event on Long Island in the 70s, you probably had a slice of Carvel cake.
Tom Carvel left the ice cream business in 1989 and the original Carvel location in Hartsdale was demolished in 2009. Thankfully though, there are still hundreds of Carvel locations dotting the landscape and the cakes are available in supermarkets across the country. Still, it’s hard not to miss that old guy that loved nothing more than to sell us some delicious frozen treats.
If you have fond memories of eating Carvel as a kid, I hope you’ll take a moment to share your recollections in our comments section below.