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Moderate winter helps ice cream sales

| Monday, Jan. 22, 2007

John Harris sat at the counter at Klavon's and ordered a double-mint chocolate chip ice cream cone -- on a January afternoon.

"Every time I'm down here I get a mint chocolate chip," said Harris, 39, of Indiana Township. "I can't help myself."

It didn't phase Harris that he'd be walking out of the Strip District ice cream parlor into 25-degree temperatures.

"Doesn't matter to me," he said.

Ice cream fanatics like Harris -- who says his fridge is stocked year-round with ice cream, cherries, whipped cream and hot fudge -- are hard to come by. Most winters, ice cream sales dip to less than half of summer sales figures, local ice cream shop owners say. But these past few months, with predominantly mild temperatures, ice cream shops are doling out more cones, shakes and floats than in years past.

Most winters, Klavon's will go through four or five gallons of ice cream a day -- compared with 20-25 in the summer, owner Ray Klavon said. But this winter, they've been dishing out six to eight gallons a day, he said.

"Ice cream is definitely up this winter," said Howard Todd, co-owner of DiFiore's Ice Cream Delite in Mt. Washington. DiFiore's has sold 35 percent to 40 percent more ice cream than usual for this time of year, Todd said.

"It's ridiculous," said Todd's wife, Patty DiFiore.

Todd even has noticed a difference at his new coffee shop, DiFiore's Grand Brew, two doors down on Shiloh Street from the ice cream shop.

"Instead of getting a hot coffee, they're asking for a cold coffee or a frozen coffee," he said.

Both Klavon's and DiFiore's offer food like hoagies and soup, which allows them to remain open during the winter. It's harder for businesses that only sell ice cream. Most Tastee-Freez locations around the city close for winter, as does Rita's Water Ice.

Larry Maloney closed his Rita's franchises in Squirrel Hill and O'Hara in October, but he wishes he could have stayed open a couple months more this year.

"October was rainy and cold, and November and December were really nice" Maloney said. "I wish we could have (stayed open). That would have been nice. They were good months."

Dave and Andy's in Oakland, which sells only ice cream, remains open during winter because it fills orders from restaurants, such as Murray Avenue Grill in Squirrel Hill, owner Andy Hardie said.

Restaurants typically order the same amount during the winter as they do the summer; it's the people who come in for cones and shakes that drop off, Hardie said.

"But we've been busy," he added, noting that most winter business is 75 percent less than during the summer, but this year, it's been about half as bad. A couple of Saturdays ago, there was a line out the door, Hardie said.

The current cold snap, which began last week with snowfall and temperatures in the 20s, has put a dent in the boost, though.

"It'll definitely drop. When it's 50 (degrees), it'll double business from a day like today," Hardie said last Wednesday, when the high reached only 28 degrees. "So global warming's not all bad, I guess."

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