Good to the Last Drop

Roberto Vazquez
WITH HEAT reaching more than 80 degrees, the Jiz De Ortega family cooled off with a tasty sampler of homemade ice cream at Handel’s on National Ice Cream Day, Sunday, July 16.

It was 9:35 a.m. on Sunday, July 16, in Lakewood and the temperature was already 75 degrees, the kind of morning when tempers flare on the road and common courtesy goes out the window.

Fortunately, July 16 also marked the 40th anniversary of National Ice Cream Day and a perfect way to beat the heat waves blanketing much of the nation.

It was 1984 when President Ronald Reagan proclaimed July National Ice Cream Month, with the third Sunday also recognized as National Ice Cream Day. After all these years the frozen treat still holds a special significance for Americans.

Ice Cream’s a Little Bit of Heaven

At La Michoacana on Anaheim Street, it was oddly quiet when Long Beach resident Laura Rojas finally entered the empty store.

A reporter interviewed Ms. Rojas, who replied, “vanilla” when asked what ice cream she’d purchased, while the reporter purchased a Mexican style coconut paleta ($3.50), purely for quality control and taste testing “research,” not as an indulgence.

According to the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), the top three ice cream flavors this year were chocolate, cookies n’ cream and vanilla.

The IDFA stated, “The average American eats roughly 20 pounds of ice cream each year, or about four gallons,” adding, ice cream is the “nation’s favorite frozen treat.”

Those numbers lead some analysts to predict a tasty future.

Data from Forbes Business Insight estimates global ice cream sales will increase 46% to 104.96 billion by 2029, up from $71.52 billion in 2021.

Record Heat Means More Ice Cream

At 12:45 p.m., it was 81° when Albert Martinez, the assistant manager at Rite-Aid on 2nd Street, stopped what he was doing to help answer some questions.

Martinez, in his fourth year with the company, was aware of President Reagan’s proclamation and said, “It’s going pretty well.”

When it comes to ice cream, Martinez is a Black Cherry fan. He told the Beachcomber the Thrifty brand of ice cream was still made in California, as it has, “since 1940.”

The store ice cream sales increased by “about 8%,” largely in dip sales due to a recent breakdown in the refrigeration unit area that carries what are referred to as, “square-rounds.”

The heat has had a definite impact.

According to Martinez, “Typically, they sell two for $8. Now, the majority of the folks buy four at a time, because of the heat wave,” then added, “It’s a deal!”

Just as he finished, Lorraine Bennett stepped up to the freezer, her eyes scanning hungrily, “It’s so hard,” then continued, “It’s so hard to stop eating it!

Bennett added, “I remember the Good Humor, the ice cream truck. Vanilla is still my favorite ice cream.”

Finally, Ms. Bennett came to a reasonable, somewhat healthy decision and stated, “I’m thinking Rainbow Sherbet.” Then, as she turned to leave, Bennett lowered her voice just above a whisper, leaned in close and confided, “I used to work for the Grunion. Fifteen years, ad sales,” nodding, “The Blowitzes.”

Then she was gone, just like mint chip during a “buy one, get one” sale.

Albert Martinez spoke up and noted, “When it’s ‘buy one, get one free,’ I have to order like eight cages, each of which are approximately six tall, five feet long and two feet wide.

Martinez added, “It’s basically like a train.”

Particular Tastes of Consumers

It was like late afternoon freeway traffic in the Lakewood Costco store location when Rolando Salazar finally made it through a wall of humanity to the freezer section.

As he peered inside the freezer, the Paramount resident admitted he didn’t know it was National Ice Cream Day, before deciding on what are referred to as, “drumsticks.”

In Spanish, Salazar stated, “That’s the kind of ice cream my kids have loved, forever.”

Costco employees were unable to speak on record, but one manager admitted, “All we can say is sales have been great, due to the weather, absolutely.”

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, ice cream sales contribute $13 billion to the American economy. Last year, America’s ice cream producers “churned” more than 1.38 billion gallons, an effort that directly creates 28,000 jobs, including 1.8 billion in direct wages.

For Jordyn Wieck, 20, an employee at Rite-Aid, “My favorite right now is the circus animal cookie.”

While chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ranked first, third and fourth, respectively, on the Top 10 ice cream flavors, Mr. Martinez pointed to a surprising flavor.

“This time of the year, it’s always up. The most popular one I have is mint chip.”

Before Martinez returned to work, he added, “We also have an increase in tourists.” He continued, “Just recently I was talking to a guy from France. Nice guy! He said he’d never had Thrifty ice cream before. The whole family got rainbow sherbet.”

A Moment Worth the Wait

At Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream the line was long, the day still hot and dry when Meg Goris and her husband, Rob Rexroat finally got some relief.

“A scoop of monkey business and a scoop of vanilla caramel brownie,” Goris said, while Rexroat added, “Um, monkey business and chocolate peanut butter brownie.”

Neither knew it was National Ice Cream Day.

Goris laughed a little and replied, “Well, what do you know? I had no idea”.

Nearby, the family of John and Michelle Jiz De Ortega sat huddled together, enjoying a beautiful moment sharing America’s favorite frozen treat.

As Michelle introduced Peter, 10, Oliver, 8, Emilia, 5, and Josiah, 3, John Jiz De Ortega summed it up best, “It’s always a wait here, but, with the weather, if you’re in the mood for good ice cream, it’s absolutely worth the wait.”

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