Big Gay Ice Cream Shop Prepping for East Village Debut

By Patrick Hedlund on July 14, 2011 6:49am 

Artist Sam Simon touches up a portrait of Bea Arthur included in the unicorn mascot.
Artist Sam Simon touches up a portrait of Bea Arthur included in the unicorn mascot.
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DNAinfo/Patrick Hedlund

EAST VILLAGE — The neighborhood’s ice cream scene is about to get a lot bigger — and gayer.

The partners behind the popular Big Gay Ice Cream Truck are weeks away from opening their first brick-and-mortar location on East Seventh Street.

The two-year-old food truck sensation — which features such standout original creations as the “Salty Pimp” and “Bea Arthur” — decided to make the leap after finding out from other tenants on the restaurant-rich block that a space was opening up.

“It was all kind of serendipitous in way,” said Bryan Petroff, 39, who launched the truck in June 2009 with partner Doug Quint, noting that they hadn’t been actively looking at real estate.

“The idea of being on this block was a really exciting proposition for us. It was one of those major turning points.”

Petroff, who left his corporate job after 15 years to pursue the business full time, said the popularity of food trucks in New York, coupled with the truck’s ability to market itself through social media, provided the perfect opportunity to take the next step.

“We never really wanted to be just a gimmick with a kooky name,” said Petroff, who was busy setting up the new space between First Avenue and Avenue A Wednesday and hopes to open by the end of July or early August.

“It’s the product that keeps you coming back.”

With a pair of soft-serve machines and plenty of room to tinker with new creations, the shop will serve everything from ice cream cones and cups to sundaes, sandwiches and shakes, he explained.

Specialty selections include the aforementioned “Salty Pimp” (vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche and sea salt in a chocolate dip) and “Bea Arthur” (vanilla ice cream and dulce de leche mixed with crushed Nilla Wafers), as well as pie-themed flavors like “Gobbler” (ice and whipped cream mixed with pumpkin butter and graham crackers) and “Mermaid” (ice and whipped cream mixed with key-lime curd and graham crackers).

Of course, the Big Gay brand does have its name to live up to — as evidenced by the giant unicorn mural by artist Sam Simon decorated with 6,000 Swarovski crystals that greets visitors at the store’s entrance.

“We’re taking gay to its ‘happy’ definition just as much as anything else,” Petroff said, noting that the “surly guys” manning Mr. Softee trucks don’t necessarily exude charm. “We wanted to bring fun back to ice cream.”

Given the neighborhood’s booming nightlife scene, Petroff said he plans to stay open until 10 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends to meet demand. The shop will also sell dessert items from other artisanal vendors — like ice cream sandwiches from Melt Bakery and popsicles from La Newyorkina — and possibly coffee from a local roaster.

The shop will also serve as a home base for the truck, and can act as a “playhouse” for Petroff and Quint, both of Washington Heights, to come up with new creations.

“Having an address is an amazing thing,” Petroff said. “Mail is not delivered to the corner of Broadway and 17th Street.”

Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, 125 E. Seventh St.

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