Sweet Nostalgia at Carvel in West Palm Beach

In honor of National Ice Cream Month, take a deep dive into the only freestanding Carvel location left in Florida

Carvel on South Dixie Highway now.
Carvel on South Dixie Highway now.

Greece-born Tom Carvel invented soft serve in 1934, when his ice cream truck got a flat tire and he had to sell his ice cream slightly melted. People were so sweet on the treat that by 1947 Carvel had become the first to franchise a retail ice cream shop in the United States. In short order, locations were popping up across the country, and Carvel became a household name.

When Gina Mejia Scoppa’s parents were looking to purchase a Carvel location in 1973, they had to choose between Syracuse, New York, and West Palm Beach. They were living in New York but opted to migrate south to take over operation of a little shop on South Dixie Highway.

Carvel on South Dixie Highway then.
Carvel on South Dixie Highway then.

Open since at least 1958, the shop features the classic slanted roof that Tom Carvel implemented as part of his iconic freestanding building design and twin cones that remain a local roadside landmark. Carvel lived in nearby Atlantis for a time and would often stop by, even using this location to test out new products he was working on. When Scoppa’s parents bought the shop, it was operating seasonally; the Mejias opened the doors year-round and the rest is history.

Carvel's soft serve sundaes
Carvel’s soft serve sundaes.

“This shop is a staple in our community, and it’s really encouraging to see how everyone continues to support our business,” says Scoppa. “We’ve been here over 50 years, through the ups and downs of the neighborhood, and this shop has been a constant in so many of our lives.”

Especially hers. At age 10, she made Flying Saucers behind the counter. At 12, she started taking customers. By high school, Scoppa and all her friends worked in the shop. After she got married, she went full-time and eventually took over when her parents retired.

“Carvel is celebrating its ninetieth birthday this year, and Gina’s shop is a great example of how Carvel continues to keep the magic alive after all these years,” says Marissa Sharpless, vice president of marketing at Carvel. “We are always looking for ways to honor our legacy, like recognizing this shop and our generational franchisees or by bringing back popular nostalgic flavors as we continue to modernize and grow with the spirit of innovation that Tom Carvel instilled in the brand.”

Carvel's iconic Fudgie the Whale cake
Carvel’s iconic Fudgie the Whale cake.

The South Dixie Highway location now has high school employees whose parents worked in the shop when they were in high school, and Scoppa says that not a week goes by without someone stopping to snap a photo. This retro treasure is proof that some simple delights never get old.  

Writer’s Note: This story was inspired by a post by Duane Zimmerman in the Facebook Group Palm Beaches Remembered. (facebook.com/groups/palmbeachesremembered)

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