Cravings for hard ice cream is a seasonal affliction for many people — a phenomenon that prompts most ice cream shops to pack their scoops away in the fall.
Peggy Bittorf has decided to break with tradition.
The owner of Cone Castle is keeping the No. 5 Fir St. business open during the winter months, something she said is a first for the shop in two decades of operation.
She’s also expanded its offerings to include items like hot beverages, homemade soups, and pies from the Heritage Ranch restaurant.
“Everybody is kind of tunnel vision — ice cream only; and tunnel vision — closed for the winter,” she said of her counterparts in the industry.
Bittorf has been rewarded with visits by customers who are surprised to find Cone Castle still open, including some from as far away as Lacombe and Sylvan — where ice cream options have declined with the temperature. She’s maintained a broad selection of choices in her cooler.
“I probably have over 40 flavours.”
The shop has also undergone renovations, with a kitchen added, the interior redone and retro tables and chairs installed.
“I’m trying to convert it over to a little café,” said Bittorf, adding that she hopes to add more meals over time.
“I can probably sit about 20 people in here.”
Previously living in Langley, B.C., Bittorf was working for an ice cream company when she learned that Cone Castle was for sale. The opportunity appealed to her, especially since she has a daughter and grandchildren living in Penhold.
The challenge she now faces is raising awareness that Cone Castle is open and serving more than ice cream cones. With hindsight, she said, she should have implemented her changes during the summer so customers would now be aware of them.
Bittorf thinks a Cone Castle that operates year-round will be good for the neighbourhood, giving area residents a place to gather for coffee or a bite to eat.
“There’s really nothing in this area.”
The shop is serving as a drop-off centre for the Red Deer food bank until mid-December, and perhaps beyond, said Bittorf.
Its hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.