By Yvonne Butts-Mitchell
Photos by: Josh Triggs
Marty Boscolo has a distinct claim to fame. He and his wife Dawn own Mikie’s Ice Cream in Greencastle, PA, and Marty is at work 65 to 70 hours each week but that’s not news. That’s often required of a small business owner. What gives him some bragging rights at 179 South Antrim Way is one of the jobs he handles personally behind the counter. It’s a familiar scene and creates an aroma that makes customers crave the result: the sweet crunch of cooled batter that’s been poured onto sizzling griddles, four batches at a time, 30 times an hour. After nearly 30 years in the food business, Marty has honed this daily task to an art form and customers line up at the counter to savor it. “I have personally made over one million waffle cones since we’ve owned Mikie’s,” Marty states with a smile. At the height of ice cream season in the summer months, more than 1,000 waffle cones made by Marty are scooped, filled, crunched and munched each week at Mikie’s Ice Cream.
“New customers are always surprised when they walk in here and see our menu,” Marty reports. “I hear them say all the time: ‘This isn’t just an ice cream shop!'” With a long list of sandwiches, subs, homemade soups, fries and sides, the meal choices tell the story of Mikie’s success as much as the words Ice Cream in their business name but ice cream is where it started.
“I’ve been working in the restaurant business since I was a kid,” says Marty. “I started in my parents’ restaurant in Fayetteville at 15. We moved to Greencastle when I was only eight so even though the family business was in Fayettville, Greencastle has always felt like home to me.”
In the fall of 1987, that feeling of connection led his brother Mike to jump on a Greencastle opportunity. “We always thought it would be great to own a business right here in town,” Marty remembers. When the space became available at Antrim Way Plaza in the fall of 1987, Marty’s older brother Mike opened Mikie’s ice cream. A few months later, Marty purchased the business and kept the name. Marty and Dawn have been the owners ever since, moving only once in 2002 to their current location, an expansion that more than tripled their floor space.
“We’ve been so fortunate. Although some years have been better than others, our business has always been growing,” Marty reflects on a business that started out with only 1,500 square feet and a menu limited to soft serve ice cream, subs, drinks and cold sandwiches. The move to the bigger space saw the business explode with plenty of parking, seating for 100 inside and outdoor booths to seat 40. The move and expansion also brought the addition of a game room and an unexpected find, a gift shop that carries Fenton glassware, Bridgewater candles, Webkinz and Ganz plush animals, Jody Coyote jewelry and more.
Through all the changes, Marty still takes his greatest pleasure in the quality of self-serve ice cream they produce on the premises. “I’ve been messing with soft serve for 35 years and I’ve learned a few things,” Marty admits. “We use specialized equipment and take extra care to make sure we have the smoothest soft serve we can offer.” There are always six flavors ready at the touch of a lever, including one that’s sugar free. Customer favorites include Mikie’s rich, creamy chocolate, peanut butter and black raspberry. The changing seasons bring variety and for fall, the big flavor is pumpkin.
Those who share the philosophy that life is short and you should eat dessert first may have a hard time choosing from among six soft serves, the homemade Italian ice and the premium, hand-dipped ice creams like cappuccino crunch, salty caramel and devil’s food cake. “Our number one ice cream seller is cotton candy,” Marty adds, noting that kids and families are a huge part of their customer base. More than 260 gallons of soft serve go out the door in a typical week, along with another 150 gallons of hand-dipped scoops.
When the important decision about dessert has been settled, customers can focus on the other parts of Mikie’s menu which include homemade soups, burgers, specialty hot sandwiches and sides. Behind the scenes, Marty and his crew are also cooking the roast beef that will be pulled, not cut, for hot roast beef sandwiches and marinating chicken breasts that are pulled for chef’s salads and sandwiches.
“Our soups are all homemade daily, from cream of potato and broccoli to chicken noodle. On Friday, our soup special is crab,” says Marty. “We also offer crab cake sandwiches that we make fresh every single day.”
Combine that sandwich with potato wedges and a large drink and you get one of Mikie’s specials, a lunch value that always surprises and delights customers. Marty has an enviable track record of being present in his business and his customers sometimes spot his vehicle outside Mikie’s at very odd times. “In all these years, I have never once missed closing when I’m town,” says Marty with a sense of pride.
He is also quick to point out that the success of his business has been the result of team effort. His wife Dawn does the business accounting and manages the gift shop and two of his managers have been with him nearly since Mikie’s opened. “We started out with a very simple concept: take care of people and acknowledge every customer. We hire staff that accentuates that,” he notes. The staff, which started out with just six workers plus Marty himself, has grown to six managers and 35 workers in all. Most of his staffers are local people and many of his workers are students.
“I think this generation gets unfairly criticized too often,” Marty reflects. “What I see here are kids who are balancing school, sports and activities plus working a job. Many of them are earning money for college. I think they deserve a lot of credit for handling all that.”
The other part of that success equation for Mikie’s is their customers and the surrounding community, according to Marty. “Our customers are wonderful. I’ll never forget the support we got when we were getting started. Customers came in with the feeling that Hey! Here’s a small guy starting a business. Let’s go in and support him.”
Marty and Dawn know that support is a two-way street and Mikie’s is well known for giving back to their community. From providing food for sports teams and events to donating gift certificates to local charities, the Boscolos make sure a significant amount of the money earned locally goes back into the local community where they live, work and are raising two daughters.
Mikie’s is open seven days a week, from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and can be counted on for fresh choices, consistent good quality and service. As expected, there are ‘regulars’ who sometimes dine in more than once a day and staff has built relationships with their clientele. “We get to know our customers and we look forward to seeing them. Sometimes all it takes is a head nod between staff and a customer at the counter to know that an order is the usual,” Marty laughs. With lunch specials and the ability to use coupons for as much as $2 off two meals, there is a lot of appeal for couples and friends to join the regulars who know two can enjoy a meal at Mikie’s for about $10.
Whether you are looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, enjoy homemade soup and fresh salad at lunch or grab a sandwich to go before the kids’ after-school game, Mikie’s always gives you options. You can even pick up a last minute gift without leaving town; the gift shop is open late into the evening, the same hours as food service.
“I think the secret to our success is that we have tried to create an atmosphere that makes people want to come back,” Marty concludes. The result has been an essential blend of attitude, gratitude, staff, food, service, customers, community and owner commitment that has made Mikie’s a Greencastle go-to place for nearly 30 years.