Cravings Travels Back In Time

Cravings, at 389 Main St., goes back in time with its 1920s-style ice cream parlor and soda fountain. Wakefield Patch caught up with some employees during the workday.

Try taking an ice cream parlor and literally moving it across the street.

That's what Rick Campbell, the owner of Cravings since March 15, 1993, of Salem, N.H., did when he relocated his existing business into a vintage ice cream parlor, with the look of the 1920s after the original owner died from 400 Main St. to 389 Main St. Now called Creations, 400 Main St. sells organic lunch and smoothies.

Originally penned Colonial Spa from 1920 to November 2000, since April 2002, the sign now reads: "Cravings at Colonial Spa." Instead, it is a soda fountain with booths, a marble counter, mosaic tiles and a back bar that is nostalgic -- resembling a diner. There are also photographs on the wall of how the building looked 50 years ago, the original owner before he passed away, and an old menu.

Campbell explained, "It's the oldest business in downtown Wakefield. When I was across the street and an opportunity came to buy this old building, I thought: 'you can't buy history like that'. I'm really grateful that's it's such a well-known place, and that it didn't get shut down. You feel special to grab onto a piece of history and to feel like you're part of something bigger."

Older customers often come back 30 years later to enjoy traditional flavors and are amazed that it is still a success. Younger customers, often from Wakefield Middle School, walk there after school for tongue-oriented candy and funky, new flavors. The younger generation tends to visit at night while mothers come in with their babies during the day.

All age groups enjoy stamp cards, where they will earn a free medium ice cream after 12 purchases, not visits. Those who join the mailing list on the Web site also have access to exclusive coupons.

Steven Scarpa, 17, of Wakefield, and a junior at Wakefield High School, has worked at Cravings for seven months. "It's great working here," he stated. "I'm a people person, so I like recommending flavors to customers."

As for ties to the town, Scarpa suggested the company has been there for a while and everyone knows what Cravings is, especially since it's on Main Street. Although it is a Wakefield-based community, particularly with the tradition of being 'the place to go' after school, customers also come from neighboring towns. During the July 4th parade, however, people come from all over.

Samantha Chaput, 20, of Wakefield, has worked at Cravings for 4 and a half years. According to Chaput, the maximum capacity is 40 to 50 guests, including hosting parties for sports teams. 

Campbell makes 36 hard-serve flavors and 100 soft-serve himself (half of them being frozen yogurt, meaning low- or no-fat). Vanilla hard-serve is popular, especially in frappes and sundaes, as well as Coffee Oreo and fruity flavors in the soft serve is a summer favorite. Seasonal flavors, including Tiramisu for Italian Day, Peach for the summer, and Egg Nog for Christmas, are also an option.

Her personal favorite is Mocha Chip (hard-serve) and Strawberry Coalatta (soft serve), but she serves hot fudge sundaes and frappes most.

Scarpa's personal favorite are the Tropical soft serve with real fruit, such as strawberries and raspberries, mixed in. Soft serve flavors can be mixed together to create a unique combination. Since he is good at making Banana Splits, he recommends them to customers.

Campbell added it is definitely a house of quality with high-quality, rich butterfat ice cream since he wouldn't arrive at 5 a.m. just to make average food. She mentioned since he has a daughter, Emma, with his wife, Laura, he opens and closes bi-weekly. 

"I use a large, commercial machine specifically built for me," Campbell stated. "The less air, the better the ice cream. The more air, the cheaper. It's custom-made to turn slowly to make a rich, dense creamy ice cream that doesn't melt away."

But the antique ice cream parlor is open year-round: Mondays to Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.

Depending on the season, six to 10 "elves," often college and high school students who are available to work seasonally, cashier and scoop the ice cream, including Scarpa and Chaput. Those who are artistically inclined, especially with cartoon characters, make ice cream cakes -- at a low turn-over rate.

Pricing is reasonable with a kiddie cone costing $2.50 and a large costs $5.05. Since there isn't a large area of freezer space, he makes a little every day during the summer to even out the workload. Cash, check, and credit are acceptable forms of payment.

Since Campbell buys the milk, sugar, Splenda-like alternative, eggs, the cost of ingredients has gone up over the years. For example, a small hard-serve costs $3.50 but when she started, it was only $2.10. Like many places, the register also charges state and local tax, now.

"I love it," she told Wakefield Patch. "I feel like we're a tight community here. A lot of us have been working here for a really long time. People should come by. Everything's so old. There's so many flavors -- you'll never be able to try them all."

Beginning her sophomore year of high school, she is now a junior studying English and Elementary Education at the University of New Hampshire. Since children come in for the gummy candy, which costs $1.50 for a quarter of a pound, and for chocolates around Valentine's Day, she plans to stay there after graduation.

She visited in middle school and Campbell suggested she work there years later. When she was old enough to work, Chaput came in every day and called him several times in a three-day span, joking he got sick of her calling and knew she really wanted to work at Cravings.

Originally from Chicago, Ill., Campbell graduated from Berklee College of Music with a Bachelor's in Audio Recording and Guitar in 1983. His iPod can be found spinning a blend of jazz, blues, and rock in the parlor. He and his jazz band, Dangerous Men, performed Saturday on the town plaza, near the Wakefield Public Library. Campbell also performs live gigs at the restaurant.

Scarpa added Jimi Hendrix and James Brown suit the atmosphere of the place. 

"You can feel the oddness when you walk in," he said. "I don't know how to describe it. You feel like you're in the '20s. We use the same ice cream bar, stools, and soda fountains to make raspberry Lime Rickey's and root beer floats."

He applied there because he loves ice cream and was one of those middle school kids hanging around himself but didn't actually hear back until the next summer.

For information, visit http://cravingsicecream.com.


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