By Kelsie O’Keefe
MSUM Mass Comm Major
The sweet smell of fresh-baked waffle cones wafts along the streets of downtown Fargo, enticing families to follow their noses to an old-fashioned parlor and service with a smile.
Photos by Sadie Jones
That sweet vanilla aroma comes from Charlie’s Ice Cream Parlour, just off Broadway on Third Avenue in downtown Fargo. Customers step into a simple scene, a record playing classics off to the side. Owner and sole employee Alisa Cossette is behind the counter waiting to take orders, suggestions and stories with a smile.
Meeting place for family
Growing up in her family’s-owned Sammy’s Pizza on Broadway, downtown has always been near and dear to Cossette. But for her there was always something missing. Downtown today is known for its distinctive shops, diverse food options, eclectic bars and local art. However, according to Cossette, there was family-oriented void.
“I always thought downtown needed an old-fashioned ice cream shop that families could come to,” says Cossette. “A gathering place at the end of the day.”
After giving birth to her son, Charlie, the void felt larger.
Charlie, now 6, loves spending time in the ice cream parlour. What better place for a boy to grow up?
“I wanted a meeting place for families,” says Cossette. “Everybody gets so caught up in the hustle bustle of day-to-day life. You often times don’t get a chance to sit down and just talk.”
So, Cossette filled the void, reaching for her son’s colored pencils and sketching the plans for Charlie’s Ice Cream Parlour.
Homemade cones best advertisement
For Cossette, the choice to have homemade or store-bought cones was a simple one. “I just figured if I make my shop smell good people would come.”
Now, Charlie’s is known for its homemade waffle cones emitting the scent of vanilla along Broadway.
Fresh homemade waffle cones taste the best and smell is free advertising, says Cossette.
Though customers have suggested adding burgers and hotdogs to the menu, Cossette says it would overpower the aroma.
“People come from two blocks down and say they can smell it,” says Cossette. “It’s the best advertising I could get.”
Besides homemade waffle cones, Charlie’s has an array of ice cream flavors, candies for shakes, malts and sundaes, pastries, soup and bread, and Italian sodas, among other treats.
Cossette’s son Charlie’s favorite treat, also one of the most popular among customers, is the real “1919” Keg Root Beer floats.
Customers choose nostalgic flavors
Cossette stocks ice cream flavors based on customer request. After three years of business, she says each flavor has a story.
Cossette enjoys serving people their favorite treats and listening to their stories.
“I love maple nut,” says Joel Davis, an MSUM student. “That’s what I always get. It was my grandpa’s favorite.”
Spumoni is a flavor from Italy, bringing Cossette back to her East Coast Italian roots. “All that’s missing is the chunks of fruit, but I get no complaints about that.”
Praline and licorice seem to bring back memories for the older crowd, says Cossette.
Cossette is the sole employee at Charlie’s.
When she was young, Cossette worked at an ice cream shop in Hawaii. A local and personal favorite was coconut ice cream. “When I opened my own shop I knew I had to have it here.”
Coconut has become one of the most popular flavors. It has a permanent spot up front with vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and mint chip, while the other flavors rotate daily.
“There are so many flavors stored in back,” says Cossette. If customers don’t see a flavor they want Cossette says there’s a good chance she’s got something for everyone in stock.
A customer enjoys his favorite ice cream, New York Cherry.
Small audience has big voice
Cossette is always open to other suggestions from customers. The best advice, she says, comes from kids.
A 12-year-old’s story helped her stay family-focused. He was excited about the small annual trip he and his family were taking. When Cossette asked why they only went once a year, he said it was too expensive.
“He made me realize that even if you have a family of two or eight, I don’t want it to be so expensive that you can’t come and enjoy,” says Cossette.
Cossette keeps the parlor family oriented, playing records softly and providing tools for family interaction. Tricycles are parked in the corner for children between a stack of books and an old-fashioned Coke machine. Chalk sits on the stair, the front sidewalk brightly decorated by customer’s art.
Charlie’s old tricycle is now enjoyed by young customers.
Provokes, provides memories
Although Cossette plans to expand her menu, what she offers will never be at the expense of the vanilla aroma.
Charlie’s nostalgic feel and tastes provoke old memories and provide a family friendly atmosphere to make new ones.
Cossette invites anyone to step into Charlie’s, taste test any flavor ice cream and waffle cone and receive some old-fashioned service with a smile.