Listen to this audio essay:
Fantastic Frozen Feat
By Emilie Ikeda, Anthony Perry, Ryan Mattox, Alex DeJesus
Franklin Fountain's old style is a modern success.
Tourists and locals alike revel in enjoying cold ice cream and frosty soda at the Franklin Fountain. Eric Berley, co-owner with his brother Ryan Berley, both run the store. While the building was built in the 1890s, their family bought it in 2000. Eric was a tour guide across the street at Independence Historic Park during his breaks from William and Mary College and noted that the area had no ice cream parlors. Berley felt that the community would benefit from a place to buy ice cream and soda on hot summer days. Ryan Berley , who had a career in antiques, procured some antique parlor furniture and ice cream equipment and they set to work. The 1910 theme for the store became the niche for the Berley Brothers in the ice cream business. The Berley family had an aunt who could teach the brothers how to make ice cream. By 2004 the Franklin fountain was open for business.
The humble Franklin Fountain seems like no match for big name ice cream distributors like Dairy Queen, Turkey Hill, and Baskin Robbins. Eric credits it to the financial advantage of ownership and steady success. "Our store sales have gone up 25 percent since last year" said Eric. The building is already owned by the Berley family so rent wasn't a problem for them.
Benjamin Franklin is the model for the ice cream parlor as its name suggests. The Berley Brothers named the parlor as a way to pay homage to the inventor. His printing office is right across the street, and in 1910 many stores were named after him. "He stands for a lot of qualities we admire" said Berley.
Customers are a major part of the Franklin Fountain. "The number one thing our customers like is that we don't have a lot of turnover" said Berley. Customers like the atmosphere presented by the 1910s as well. "It takes me back to my childhood" said Mary LeFever, an older patron. Needless to say the ice cream is also a favorite of the customers. The hot item is the Mount Vesuvius, a chocolate and vanilla sundae with brownie chunks.
The future looks undeniably bright for the little ice cream store. Shane's candies, a recently closed candy store, has been bought by the successful Berley Brothers. The plans are to teach the employees to hand make candy just as Shane's did. The idea of an ice cream parlor that also sells classic candies sounds like a sweet deal for the whole city.
The Fountain continues to be a success with both tourists and locals alike. With the addition of Shane's Candies, the Fountain can only grow in popularity. A trip to the Franklin Fountain is a trip back to a classic, quaint, and sweeter time.