Over the past five months, John Pastore, owner of the Ice Cream Cottage in Mastic, has learned that there’s no such thing as a “small fire.”
When an electric meter outside the building caught fire late one night in October, causing barely any structural damage to the Ice Cream Cottage but covering everything in soot, Pastore said he thought it would be just a few months before he’d be up and running again.
“I don’t remember it being this much work when I first opened 21 years ago,” he said from his store on Wednesday, with about 10 of his 48 regular ice cream flavors thawing out in the display case.
Pastore said recovering from the fire was like starting over. He had to throw away every product in the shop, including sealed packages of food and plastic ware, to satisfy the Suffolk County Board of Health.
Pastore said he’s spent about $100,000 putting his store back together again and will open his doors Thursday, even if not everything is ready.
“We’re working on it,” he said. “We’ll have about half of our flavors.”
The reopening day is just 10 days shy of the Ice Cream Cottage’s 21st anniversary on March 27, he said, and the shop is now better than ever.
Pastore said there are 10 new flavors, including three that are cheesecake-based. He also purchased all new equipment, including gelato display cases imported from Italy. Although Pastore said he took classes in gelato-making while the store was closed, the cases are just for the ice cream, he doesn’t have any immediate plans to make or sell gelato.
Samantha Bray, who has worked at the shop for more than four years, said she was shocked when she first heard about the fire and is happy to be back at work this week.
“It’s been hectic,” she said. “We have a lot of stuff to put back together and a lot of ice cream to make.”
Pastore said the community has been very supportive and he’s received daily phone calls and emails from customers asking about the shop’s progress. Even his merchants are happy to see him reopening, he said; his dairy supplier brought him his first shipment on the house, and his garbage collector didn’t charge him during cleanup last month.
“That really touched me,” he said. “Everyone wants to help put us back on our feet.”
Pastore said he’s not sure what to expect on Thursday, but he’s hoping for some luck of the Irish - his first day back in business being St. Patrick’s Day.
He said he knows he’ll have at least one customer.
“I have one woman who wrote me to say she misses the Cherry Vanilla,” he said. “She said, ‘I can’t wait any longer, I’ll be there Thursday for the Cherry Vanilla.’”