By Alex Ginsberg
Sometimes the conventional wisdom is wrong.
Example: Luxury items such as dessert do not sell well in a recession. Right?
Not always, says Mitch Nusbaum, a former meat wholesaler who dove into the ice cream business last month. Since Uncle Louie G’s opened its doors Memorial Day weekend in the Glen Oaks Shopping Center, area residents have been lining up for sweet creamy desserts — despite the acute unemployment numbers and the rising cost of just about everything in New York City.
“When the kids get out of school, you can’t even walk in this place,” Nusbaum said.
The 44-year-old entrepreneur and his wife, Debra, run the store with Debra’s brother Alan Goldfeder. The Nusbaums’ 15-year-old daughter, Samantha, and Goldfeder’s son, 16-year-old Josh, help out when they can.
The store, part of a national chain with outlets in Brooklyn, Florida and across the nation, boasts 96 flavors of ice cream and ices, including Harvest Pumpkin Pie, Dulce de Leche de Louie and Mitch Nusbaum’s personal favorite, Brooklyn Cheesecake.
“There are three words every customer says when they taste it,” Nusbaum said. “‘Oh, my God.’”
The store also offers sundaes, milkshakes, smoothies, waffle sandwiches and egg creams.
Nusbaum made the switch to ice cream about a year after selling his Ridgewood meat business in December 2001.
“I wasn’t happy,” he explained. “You have to wake up at 3:30. And 9/11 killed the restaurant business. Now, as opposed to hating to get to work in the morning, I can’t wait to get to work in this business.”
And contrary to what one might think, people do buy ice cream, even in a soft economy, Nusbaum and Goldfeder said. With families canceling vacations and putting off major purchases, people are more likely to indulge themselves in smaller ways — such as with a cup of Cappuccino Crunch. At $2.50 for a single scoop cone and $1.50 for an ice, the desserts are small luxuries that are within the reach of almost everyone.
“You don’t have to take out a second mortgage to have an ice cream,” Goldfeder quipped.
Customers at Uncle Louie G’s on a recent Sunday agreed that the ice cream was delicious — and the price just right. Shuvo Dastidar, a Bellerose resident, was already visiting the store for the second time in only a week. His mouth was too full of Cookies & Cream to comment explicitly, but he nodded vigorously when asked if the ice cream tasted good.
He said other excellent choices included Banana Fudge, Chocolate Jell Ring and Scooby-Dooby Doo.
And Catherine Anderson of Rosedale was making one of several trips with her arms full of Pina Colada ices and Cookies & Cream ice cream back across the plaza to Mandees. She said her fellow employees had been placing ice-cream orders with her all day.
Do the owners love to eat the ice cream as much as the customers?
Both said they had eaten a good deal of the stuff since opening the store, but Goldfeder had grown a bit tired of it after weeks of nearly constant exposure. Nusbaum admitted that he continued to sneak tasty mouthfuls on the job. It is part of the reason he offers free tastes and why he is so sure business will continue to be — so to speak — healthy.
“The challenge is getting the word out,” Nusbaum said. “Because the product sells itself.”
Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.