When news of the spreading coronavirus struck, Gabrielle Carbone and Matt Errico closed their Bent Spoon ice cream shop immediately.
“We had to remake our business model overnight,” said Carbone, and convert a thriving, popular and often crowded shop into an online store operating with pickups out of the back door.
They knew that the way their customers lined up inside and outside the 700-square-foot Bent Spoon store on Palmer Square was too close to be healthy in these trying times, so they switched to selling only pints of ice cream, cupcakes, cookies, and tins of hot chocolate.
It hasn’t been easy.
“As a business model, it’s really difficult,” said Carbone. “But as a small business, we have to be able to adjust.” She and Errico didn’t want to furlough their full-time employees if they didn’t have to, so they have continued to make dozens of hand-crafted ice creams and baked goods while sanitizing everything even more diligently than usual.
“We need to keep the store clean and sealed up tight,” she said.
Now customers check the Bent Spoon Instagram account, Facebook or website after 4 p.m. each day and place and pay for online orders for pickup the next day. They are assigned a number and when the time comes, “they pull up, beep their horn, roll down their window and give their order number,” Carbone said. “We put on a fresh pair of gloves and give them their order and they are on their way.”
So far it’s working. The Bent Spoon is still offering up to two dozen first-rate traditional and vegan ice cream flavors each day and taking orders for special occasions.
Their business is down to 20 percent of their previous volume, but as disheartening as that is, Carbone said they are lifted by the support and kindness they have seen in the community.
“The ways in which people can care for each other has been shown to us over and over again,” she said. “The community has really supported us; we are all in this together.
“We are getting notes and orders for gift cards from all over the country” in support, she said.
The artisanal ice cream shop opened in 2004 making small-batch ice creams and sorbets using locally sourced seasonal ingredients whenever possible. Carbone and Errico have crafted hundreds of flavors over the years to a wildly receptive audience of locals and tourists. They also are known for their philanthropic endeavors in Princeton.
For more information or to place an order, visit thebentspoon.com.