Written by: Frank Iacono
Cool Scoops Ice Cream Parlor, owned and operated by Paul and Lori Russo, is a retro-50s ice cream parlor located in North Wildwood, New Jersey. At Cool Scoops the décor and ’50s style cars are almost as cool as the ice cream sundaes and novelties served up daily. The old-time parlor, considered one of the island’s best examples of Neo-Doo Wop architecture, contains a treasure trove of memorabilia from the 1950s and ’60s.
The Cool Scoops Ice Cream Parlor, nearly a 3,000-square-foot shop, features genuine autographs that hang on every wall, ranging from the Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis to the casts of “Happy Days,” “Lavern and Shirley,” “Gilligan’s Island” and “Star Trek.” Additionally, the parlor has a special wall that is dedicated specifically to the musical history of the Wildwoods.
Celebrating their 12th anniversary summer, Cool Scoops made its national TV debut in 2006 on “Trading Spaces,” followed by a doo-wop episode on the Travel Channel, “Taste That Town” and “Tail Fins and Chrome.” More recently, Cool Scoops was featured on The Food Network in a segment called “Snacks on the Beach.”
In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul and Lori Russo and asking them a few questions about their love for Wildwood, New Jersey, their appreciation for doo wop music, their memorabilia collection, their successful business, and their overall passion and love for running Cool Scoops Ice Cream Parlor.
The Creative Spotlight: What is the name of your business, how did you come up with it, and who or what inspired you to create it?
Cool Scoops: The name of the business is Cool Scoops Ice Cream Parlor. We are a 50’s style parlor inspired by the cool 50’s era and scoops of ice cream…hence… Cool Scoops! The name Scoops was widely used so we decided to add Cool in front of it!
TCS: Is Cool Scoops a family owned business? And, how long have you been in business?
CS: Cool Scoops is a family owned and operated business created and opened in 2002. This is our 12th summer of operation. We are open from March thru mid-November.
We have plenty of FREE onsite parking and indoor seating.
Our family moved here in 2001 after the 911 disaster in New York City. My wife Lori, son Paul, daughter Ashley and I worked on the business until it opened in June of 2002. We all came from bucolic upstate New York.
TCS: How did you come up with the concept for a 1950’s nostalgic style ice cream parlor and what made you select Wildwood, New Jersey?
CS: Wildwood, New Jersey is considered the Doo Wop capital of the world with its rich history in mid-century architecture and Doo Wop Music. It’s where “Rock Around The Clock” was performed for the first time in 1954 by Bill Haley and His Comets. This, however, was only a start for Wildwood which became home for many other musical firsts. In the summer of 1960, Chubby Checker created a new dance craze called the TWIST in Wildwood. Bobby Rydell, Charlie Gracie and Dick Clark spent many a summer here as well. My wife’s family had hotel properties and businesses here in the Wildwoods and we wanted to be closer to family after the 911 crisis.
TCS: How have you amassed the hundreds of 50’s memorabilia on display in Cool Scoops? And, what are some of your favorites within the collection and are you always adding to it?
CS: My collecting started at a very young age…birth in fact! I was born February 3rd, 1959…”The Day The Music Died” along with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. Most of my gifts were pictures of these artists for each birthday as my collection began to grow. As I grew older and in love with the 50’s music and artists I was able to buy memorabilia from garage sales, concerts, swap meets and autograph signings at comic-conventions.
Before eBay was created, I was able to purchase a few of my favorite items such as the autograph pictures of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles. Those along with hundreds of others fill the walls at Cool Scoops.
To create a realistic 50’s atmosphere within the confines of our building, we created three distinctive rooms featuring 50’s themes. As you enter the premises you are met by three authentic 50’s vehicles cut into car booths in our Drive-In movie room. A 57 Chevy Bel Aire, a 57 Ford Fairlane and a 59 pink Cadillac create the theme of eating outside at a Drive-In.
To either side of the main room are two other rooms…a 1950’s Diner Room with counter and stools and a Happy Days Room with Red Booths. They both have vintage televisions that play early TV shows and commercials.
The waiting / service area has a 57 Chevy front for the register and a vintage kitchen set-up with autograph pictures of 50’s TV families.
In December 2010, I was able to purchase and restore a 1951 Chevy Deluxe that was an Elvis movie car from the film “Fun In Acapulco”. I call it Mister Scoops Deville! It’s usually parked out front of Cool Scoops for all to enjoy and you’ll see me driving around town form car show to 50’s event.
TCS: Have any famous people from the 50’s, or in general, stopped by Cool Scoops and donated any of their own personal memorabilia to the parlor?
CS: Cool Scoops is considered a ‘destination location’ not just an ice cream shop. People from all over the world have been here to take a step back in time and enjoy the 50’s once again. So far in 12 years of business we’ve had a Platter, a Coaster, a Drifter, an Ink Spot, a Supreme, two Monkees and two Beach Boys. Our favorite visitors are the homegrown kind like Chubby Checker, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, and Bill Haley’s ‘Original’ Comets and Charlie Gracie to name just a few.
In 2004, I founded the Wildwoods Music Awards which honor the musical heroes of the Wildwoods and beyond. The donations from artists have been wonderful as well…from all the autographs and pictures of themselves to Joey Dee’s ‘Peppermint Twist shoes.
In 2006, we even had a visit from the Monkee Mobile! Many, many visitors have donated items to be displayed from their own collection and we appreciate every one of them!
TCS: How many flavors and different types of ice cream do you currently have, what is the most requested, and are you considering adding any new ones in the near future?
CS: Cool Scoops carries over 35 flavors of ice cream, water ice and soft serve. Of course the most requested is Vanilla Bean followed by Mint Chocolate Chip. All the others share second place! We cater to people with allergies. If you’re on vacation you don’t need to have something else to worry about.
We carry Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free and Low-Carb choices for all our visitors needs. We are the ONLY ice cream place that offers a Dairy-Free product in Cape May County.
Our flavors change by the season…summer flavors are available May through August and our fall flavors are introduced in September and are available through November.
TCS: Tell us about everything else you have such as your delicious specialty sundaes, custom ice cream cakes, snack specials, and etc.?
CS: We have created a fun menu for ALL to enjoy. We have the standard 50’s Shakes, Malts, Slushies, Smoothies, and Arctic Swirls.
Cones come in many flavors as well…oreo, chocolate chip M&M’s, and Pretzel cones. Waffle, Sugar, and Cake cones too!
We have specialty sundaes with great names as well. The Lil Deuce Scoops, The Elvis Pretzley, The Kryptonite Sundae, The Cape May I, The Dusty Road Sundae, The Abbott and Cone-Stello, Bozo the Cone, and the Cadillac of all Sundaes the Scoop DeVille!
You can even create your own banana split with your choice of ice cream and toppings too!
We also provide typical Drive-in movie food like Chips, Soft Pretzels, Sha-Na-Nachos and Cheese, Hot Dogs, Brownies, and Cookies. We specialize in Waffles and Ice Cream including our new Brownie Waffles.
Remember…calories take a vacation too at Cool Scoops!
If you need a specialty cake we got it. We can not only create vanilla and chocolate cakes but any flavor or a mixed flavor ice cream cake of your choice. We can also prepare a Dairy Free cake if needed!
TCS: Can you describe for us your average customer and, besides the ice cream, what resonates with customers the most in your parlor?
CS: Our average customers ranges from Infants to 100 year olds!
Everyone loves ice cream and more love to relax and relive the best era ever!
Customers are intrigued by the amount of 50’s memorabilia and extent of our collection. It’s not just an ice cream parlor…it’s a museum to eat ice cream in!
Even the bathrooms are filled with fun and vintage items. Ya gotta see it to believe it!
TCS: Provide us with some insight on your four appearances on The Travel Channel?
CS: Actually the Travel Channel has been a great friend of ours and asks to film an episode every few years here at Cool Scoops.
Our favorite episode featured our friend Chubby Checker teaching Samantha Brown, host of Great Weekends on the Travel Channel, how to do the Twist. Chubby was celebrating his 50th Anniversary of the Twist with us at Cool Scoops and the Travel Channel.
We are always honored and excited to be included in the Travel Channel lineup.
TCS: How do you market your business (i.e. conducting advertising such as print, radio, TV, website, and social media)?
CS: Our son Paul created and monitors the Cool Scoops website. He was a Radio, Television and Film graduate from Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey and is now in Ireland for 7 months working on HBO’s Game of Thrones, Season 4.
Our daughter Ashley, a senior studying Business at Rowan University, is our store manager. She also handles our social media accounts.
Cool Scoops sponsors many local events and charities as well as Police and Fire organizations.
We found that in 12 years that we’ve been in business ‘word of mouth’ marketing has helped us the most!
We do advertise in the local newspapers and TV guide for the visiting public.
TCS: What is your website address and what can your visitors do on your site to learn more about Cool Scoops?
CS: The website is www.coolscoops.com. Visitors to our website can take a trip down memory lane to the good old days of the 1950’s.
Our website features:
- The Cool Scoops Ice Cream Parlor menu
- Fun Stuff for both kids and adults:
- Play The Memory Game to win a discount coupon for Cool Scoops.
- Listen to popular music of the 50’s
- Take a 360 tour of the:
- Ice Cream Service Room
- Car Booth Room
- Happy Days Room
- View Photos of the Ice Cream Parlor
- Discover awards we’ve won, appearances we’ve made, and links to other relevant information.
TCS: Have you embraced Social Media to promote your business?
CS: Social Media is a new medium for our fans to follow us online. Ashley, our daughter, handles our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Fans and friends have also posted YouTube videos of guest stars visiting our store and even concerts here at Cool Scoops during the past 12 years.
Thanks to Social Media we are able to let our customers and followers learn about special events, hours of operations, coupons, and other special giveaways.
TCS: In your marketing, I noticed that you’ve also appeared on the show Trading Spaces, please share how that opportunity came about for Coop Scoops?
CS: In 2006, Cool Scoops was approached by TLC’s Trading Spaces to film a Doo Wop Segment featuring our family, and per our request, The Wildwoods too! The three days in June culminated in the best FREE advertising we could ask for.
People from all over the country and Canada have asked to see the episode and visit the rooms. This experience also helped our son to decide on a future in the Film Industry!
We followed that with being featured on episodes on the Travel Channel, News Programs, and Documentaries!
TCS: More recently, Cool Scoops was featured on The Food Network in a segment called “Snacks on the Beach,” can you tell us more about it?
CS: We are currently featured on the Travel Channel’s episode, “Snacks on the Beach” which shows travelers throughout the country the top spots for snacks on vacation. We have been included as one of the best places to visit from Hawaii to New Jersey. We are very proud of our reputation.
We are known as the “Coolest Place at the Jersey Shore”…Where Doo Wop meets Dessert!
TCS: Are you personally or is Cool Scoops associated with any of the Doo Wop tours throughout Wildwood?
CS: We are part of the Doo Wop tour in North Wildwood during the summer and fall Seasons. I am also on the Board of Director for the Doo Wop Preservation League… helping with the Fabulous Fifties Weekend and Sensational Sixties Weekend held in Wildwood, New Jersey yearly!
TCS: Do you offer any coupons to draw in and/or retain existing customers?
CS: We advertise in local papers and offer different coupons for different items. We are also part of a ‘Boardwalk Bucks App’ which caters to the iPhone and Adroid users. Being featured on National Television was the biggest boost for our business.
TCS: With Cool Scoops being such a seasonal business tell us what you and your family do during the offseason?
CS: Offseason we clean, paint and rearrange the exhibits. I also spend time refinishing new exhibits and spend many hours on eBay and other auction-based sites for new pieces of 50’s memorabilia. (Please don’t tell my wife!)
TCS: What do you enjoy most about managing and operating Cool Scoops? And, what’s the biggest thing you struggle with?
CS: We all love seeing our friends, fans and visitors enjoying themselves. Reminiscing about the good old days and showing their kids and grandkids what life was all about in the 50’s and 60’s.
The biggest thing we struggle with is that we work when most people are on vacation and vacation when most people are working. We may only be open for 8+ months but it’s ALL us, 24/7 for the 8 months!
During that time, we’ve missed many a family event such as weddings, christenings or graduation parties but the family understands I hope.
TCS: With all of the storm activity, like Hurricane Sandy, that often occurs in coastal-based areas like Wildwood, New Jersey how do you deal with the potential damage it could cause to your establishment and its associated memorabilia?
CS: Any weather related closing or damage caused to us and our neighbors on this Seasonal Tourist Resort Island can be devastating but we have weathered the storms before and will do it again! I guess we were lucky not to have had the damage from Hurricane Sandy that our neighbors to the north got.
All of the memorabilia is insured but unfortunately irreplaceable so there has been many a night we worry about a harsh storm. Thank God we haven’t seen one that really hurt us yet…and hope we never will!
TCS: If you could offer a first-time entrepreneur only one piece of advice, what would it be?
CS: The advice I would give is to do your homework and research (as follows):
- Look at history, demographics and other local details in the town or city you want to create a business in.
- Try to BUY & OWN your property so you don’t have to pay rent to someone else who may possible close you down someday without warning.
- Make sure you buy memorabilia from a reputable source with authentic paperwork to coincide with your purchases.
- Marry someone who let’s you spend loads of money on your dream…it will really pay off in the end. If it doesn’t pay off then there will be no money left to pay her lawyer!
- Most importantly…Live your Dream! No one else will make that happen if you don’t!
How To Contact Cool Scoops Ice Cream Parlor
CS: To contact Cool Scoops Ice Cream Parlor, please reach us at the following:
Cool Scoops Ice Cream Parlor
1111 New Jersey Ave
North Wildwood, NJ 08260-2850
Phone: (609) SAY-COOL / (729-2665)
About Frank Iacono
Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.
Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.