New ice cream shop opens on North Main Road
Jamestown’s Paul Sprague has a head for business and comes up with a lot of ideas, he says. For example, he founded the Jamestown- Newport Ferry Company when he was 20. For the last seven years, he’s run the Island Energy Company. And now he has a new venture.
The Island Scoop, Jamestown’s new ice cream shop and candy store, last weekend completed its first week in business, Sprague said. The ice cream and yogurt come in 28 flavors made at Bliss Dairy in Attleboro, Mass. He also sells candy.
The candy store is going to be run by daughter Riley, 8, who already has a handle on the inventory. She knew, for one thing, that the saltwater taffy had not yet been delivered and wanted her dad to consider ordering the pumpkin ice cream for Halloween, he said.
Sprague would like to have a penny candy section, too.
But Riley and her brother Spencer, 10, already have some items named after them. Riley’s Root Beer Float and Spencer’s Lemon Chiller are some of the special concoctions, he said. Island Scoop also sells sundaes, banana splits and “frappes, cabinets, shakes, whatever you want to call them,” he said.
“We will make a frappe with any flavor ice cream any way anybody wants,” he said. The shop also offers a flavor of the week.
“The feature flavor this week, picked out by Riley, is Monster Mash,” he said; it has vanilla ice cream, with Oreo cookie pieces, M&Ms, malted milk balls and “a delicious caramel swirl.”
Sprague, who runs the shop with wife Niki, expects to stay open until Halloween, although he may cut the hours to weekends, depending on business in the fall.
For the summer, the doors at 79 North Main Road will stay open every day from noon to 9 p.m.
The traffic is between 7 and 9 p.m., he said, and it’s mostly families.
Sprague said nine people work staggered shifts at the ice cream shop. Island Energy employees like Jes Berghorn of Narragansett have helped get the business off the ground.
By winter, Berghorn is Island Energy’s secretary, but now she’s scooping chocolate and vanilla ice cream.
“I didn’t think it was a crazy idea,” she said. “The oil business slows down in summer. It’s a nice transition to move over.”
Berghorn initially did feel nervous about “creating an ice cream cone and failing at it,” she joked. “But you do one, you feel like a pro. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re scooping ice cream.”
So far, Graham Central Station leads the other ice cream flavors, but the summer’s still young, Sprague said. The flavor has graham crackers in it. But the shop is just starting its flavor of the week special. Other candidates, like Purple Cow, could give Graham Central Station competition.
Sprague said that he and the employees are having fun with the ice cream shop.
“It was a midnight idea,” he said. “I woke up at midnight. That’s it. Ice cream.” But like many inspirations, this idea had also simmered in the back of his mind.
“I thought about buying an ice cream shop years ago,” he said, “and I didn’t do it. I was too young to get into a business.” But the idea hovered around the back of his mind, he said, until “it just kind of clicked.”
Necessity also played a hand, he said. When he had bought the building, a former dive shop, it was dilapidated.
“It had been on the market for three years, and it was kind of falling apart,” he said. He made improvements and repairs, built garages for his delivery trucks and one day expected to rent a first-floor apartment to a tenant. But when the housing market collapsed, it became hard to rent housing. A friend looked at the space and considered starting a deli. But then Sprague decided to start the ice cream shop.
“The best part, it’s a seasonal business, so when I’m not delivering oil, I have a business to go to,” he said. “And when that’s over, I go back into the oil.”
Sprague, who moved to Jamestown from Indianapolis at 4 years old, credits his parents with instilling the entrepreneurial spirit. His late mother, Jane Sprague, was a freelance writer and editor. She was editor of the Jewish Voice, a newspaper for the Jewish Federation of Rhode Island (now the Jewish Alliance). His father, Bill, made films. His main focus was the Indy 500, but in 1976, the family traveled to Rhode Island to film the tall ships for the bicentennial. They stayed.
“My mother decided she wanted to move, and my father wanted to move, too,” he said. They rented a house in the winter, but in the summer, they lived on a 40-foot sloop. His parents also put the local theater back on its feet.
“They were the driving force,” he said.