Cold cream in the summer time

Written by Neal F. Litherland. Posted in Dining & Entertainment

Published on August 18, 2011 with No Comments

by Neal F. Litherland

The corner of Lincolnway and Morgan Boulevard has been a gathering place for summer cooling off for more than 31 years. Pat’s Ice Cream Parlor, which was originally known as a franchised Baskin and Robbins 31 Flavors, has been a family-owned business for decades.

Entire generations have grown up going there for sweet treats whenever the mercury rose in downtown Valparaiso. Patricia Berning, who took over running the shop from her mother, says that she loves her business more than anything she’s done before and that she’s very happy with her self-named ice cream shop.

“I know deep down that it’s work, but it doesn’t feel like work when I’m here,” Berning said. “I just love working with the public and learning about the people who come into my shop.”

Berning wasn’t always your friendly, neighborhood ice cream lady.

Before she took over 31 Flavors from her mother, Berning worked in retail for other companies, and she was employed by the Porter County Recorder.

However, after her time in the work force, Berning decided to follow in the family business and take over the store.

After a number of years she changed the name from 31 Flavors franchise and switched to the current moniker of Pat’s Ice Cream Parlor. That was mostly because the idea of only having 31 flavors was a little outdated.

“I get my ice cream from a micro brewery in Madison, Wis., named Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream,” Berning said. “It’s high quality, Kosher and it gives me over 100 different flavors to choose from.”

Among the flavors that Pat’sboasts is the ever-popular Black Licorice (which continually sells even though the owner admits that it looks like construction putty). Recently the parlor has added caffeinated ice cream that boasts as much caffeine as a single energy drink. Currently Pat’s keeps 48 flavors or so in stock, but they change up from time to time so new ones come and old ones go that haven’t been quite so popular.

Of course, changing the flavors and the name wasn’t the only thing that Berning did once she took over the business. Pat’s Ice Cream Parlor also makes custom ice cream cakes and other desserts, like monkey tails (chocolate dipped bananas) and chocolate dipped pretzels. Smoothies and fruit drinks abound, as do home-made waffle bowls and waffle cones which come with or without chocolate dipping (also done right behind the counter at Pat’s).

Berning has gone a little bit further trying to bring both fun and quality products to her customers. Maroma incense, a hand rolled incense that delivers quality scent without anything artificial, is constantly on display at the parlor for instance.

Additionally, Harold the Cat, the unofficial mascot of Pat’s Ice Cream Parlor, is always playing hide and seek with the customers.

“It was a game that some of the girls started a long time ago,” Berning said, taking the stuffed toy cat out of his latest hiding place in one of the shop’s windows.

“It’s gotten so that a lot of the regulars, especially kids come in, and the first thing they ask is where Harold is. We move him once a week or so most of the time.”

Pat’s Ice Cream Parlor has been running for many years. As of 2007, it has been closed for the winter. From December 1 until March 1 the shop is closed, giving Berning more time to spend away from the shop.

Even though she enjoys making time for other things though, she always loves coming back to her shop.

“You’ve got to have quick responses and be fast on your feet,” Berning said. “But it all gets easier when you really get to know your customers — who likes what, and you know who has a taste for what. Of course I can’tt do it all myself, and I have a lot of really great, really knowledgeable people who help me out.”

Pat’s Ice Cream Parlor is located at 222 Lincolnway in Valparaiso. For further information call 219-462-5613 or follow Pat’s Ice Cream Parlor on Facebook.

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About Neal F. Litherland

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Neal Litherland is a Valparaiso resident who has been a freelance writer for several years. A graduate of Indiana University, he holds a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice. He offers advice on money-saving tips using common-sense tactics. He welcomes suggestions and comments. Contact Neal: neal@thechroniclenwi.com.

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