I had been noticing the "Like" signs posted on friends Facebook pages. The "Like" was for an ice cream shop that opened not far from our little humble abode. The "Like's" were posted by friends across US and Canada, so clearly this was a franchise that was known.
More and more the "so and so is a fan of" were popping up like cherry chips on facebook pages for this new ice cream place so I thought I would treat Mary and take her to try.
Thus, our first, and last (although we did not know it yet) visit to the Marble Slab Creamery, took place.
At first glance it seemed kinda cool. It looked from the parking lot like an old fashioned country looking store. Not realizing that this is a huge franchise, and has literally hundreds of locations across Canada, United States, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Lebanon, Bahrain, Singapore, and many many other locations. This is a serious business.
The line up was out the door and pouring onto the parking lot. Kids were everywhere in soccer uniforms, baseball caps with parents in tow. I should of known right away by the Porche Cayenne's and BMW X5's in the lot, that this was not your Grandmothers ice cream store.
Confusion started once we eventually got into the store. There were a few different lines to get in. Once we realized that one of the three lines was for those who required financing, we settled into the "We think we can afford a baby size" version of this new marble slab concoction.
I jumped the line so I could preview what was ahead. I thought if I saw the flavours it would help speed things up. My confusion got pushed into deep confusion when I saw only a few options: Vanilla, Chocolate, and a darker chocolate.
"Wonder what the big deal is" I asked to no one in particular, but directed at the staff of 20 or so 16 year old working furiously away on the famous marble slab.
They were working with vigour, violence and determination and pounding and prodding "stuff: into the customers ice cream.
One of the "order takers" asked us for our decision, as if we were one of the regulars.
"How does this work" I asked.
A menu was given to us to look over.
Still more confusion.
There were lists and more lists of "stuff" to get thrown at our ice cream, which we read was made fresh daily.
"What is made fresh daily, the ice cream or the sprinkles, bobbles and sparkles that you add?" I ask the young girl with tongue in cheek.
"All our ice cream is made fresh daily" she answers.
"Right here, in this tiny overcrowded room?"
"No, we get it shipped here every second Tuesday."
"Oh, so made fresh daily, then stored for a few weeks, then shipped from India to here"
Kinda like the stores that say open 24 hours......but not in a row....over a three day period.
More confusion when Mary and I see a poster on the wall for what looks like a decent ice cream treat: "peanut crunch bobblicious sucker delight"
"Can we try a small one of those" we ask
"They are only on approved credit. You have to go to the OAC line and meet with the finance people." we are told.
We decide on a less expensive option and order a "Chocolate peanut butter" treat. The plain and unassuming (and quite non-flavorful" vanilla ice cream is scooped from the frozen bottom of freezer wasteland, where it no doubt was made fresh on this morning by Keebler elves in a magical forest. The marshmallows that can be added for a fee might also hail in the same box with the "Pink moons, and yellow stars" that for $3 for 2 of each are yours!
So our "ice cream technician" (is this like the sandwich makers at Subway that are sandwich technicians?) puts a tiny scoop on a technical looking weigh scale. She frowns at us because all we could afford was the "Baby size" and she has difficulty in measuring a "nano-scoop" onto the scale and needs several attempts to remove the excess and deposit the "made fresh" stuff back into the frozen hinterlands.
5 minutes later the procedure moves to the infamous "Marble slab" area, where she places three or four tiny bits of brown crayon into the middle of our ice cream.
I thought at first that they must be chocolate chips, but realized after tasting that they indeed were crayons.
Very old crayons.
Possibly from MY childhood.
Next she pours an amount of Kraft bottled sauce of some type that would not cover the fine print in their posters that tell us that they actual treats are "not exactly as illustrated"
Our techie then goes to work on our baby sized treat with tools that would make a blacksmith jealous.
She pounds and pulls the "fresh" experiment in all directions. I of course make a remark that it must be "fresh" since so many sharp tools were required to chop it up.
After 11 minutes our technician goes into the line up for "staff requiring braces for carpal tunnel issues", and is quickly replaced by a fresh faced technician who wants to show of their brute strength and finish our production.
Finally done we wait to pay. There is a bog down in the line up ahead at the check out, as a family scrambles to get out 4 or 5 different cards (Visa, Amex, MC, Dinners Club, and a Suzy Sheer card) to spread out the payments. They mistakenly brought 3 kids, and one insisted on the "Smurfs topping". Once you go with licenced merchandise you pay for it!
So now they are attempting to pay for it!
Once we pool our credit cards and cash on hand we watch the adding go on at the cash.
"Baby sized" is indeed punched in correctly, and I marvel at the nerves of steel as they add the dollars and cents for the each and every bit of brown crayon.
I am in the wrong business, but decide that a franchise would be more expensive than the Porches parked in the lot.
They are clearly in the business of selling franchises and not ice cream.
So out the door we go with a spoon in each hand, shell shocked from paying the price, but still open minded about tasting what our weeks wages have purchased.
Two bites into it (one bite each) I broke a tooth on the crayon, and Mary thought the sauce that was added was a petrolium based derivitive used to assist in mixing the compounds.
I decide that there is more "marble" than "creamery" in my overpriced baby sized bowl, and toss it out.
I get no argument from my lovely partner.
We drive home and reminice about the Pralines and Cream for $3 at Baskin and Bo Bo's.
We consider going thru Mickey Dee drive through and sharing a McFlury that has real Oreo cookies in a soft fresh made ice cream.
We wax nostalgically about Kawartha Dairy cherry chip that was a favorite for the kids on many a camping or cottage trip.
We discuss Reids Dairy and their 99 cent fresh swirl!
Ah, the dollar cone.
We both sigh, then take one last look at our bill from the Marble place.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.