A northeast Ohio legend will soon look to scoop up Southwest Florida ice cream customers.
Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream and Yogurt plans to open in Bonita Springs in September at 3440 Renaissance Blvd., off U.S. 41.
It will be Handel’s first ice cream shop in Florida.
“I would literally go down there once a week,” said Keven Mills of Sarasota.
When Mills visits home in Youngstown, Ohio, he eats about a pint of ice cream a day.
“It doesn’t matter if there’s 5 inches of snow or a steaming hot summer day,” he said.
The first Handel’s opened in Youngstown in 1945 and operates 33 stores in five other states, its website says. Handel’s has 101 ice cream flavors, eight low fat yogurts, eight sherbets, 12 fat free ice cream flavors and 6 ices.
Many Floridians from Ohio and Pennsylvania, where Handel’s is well known, may find their way to the store once it opens.
“I can promise you, 100 people will drive from Sarasota just to get ice cream at Handel’s,” Natalie Modarelli of Estero said.
Many of Handel’s ice cream flavors are seasonal, such as mango, raspberry cheesecake chunk, chocoholic peanut butter ripple and vanilla caramel truffle.
“It’s ridiculous it’s absolutely the most amazing, they use the freshest ingredients,” said Sissy Jahn of North Naples, who grew up going to the first Handel’s location in Youngstown.
Modarelli worked in the Youngstown ice cream shop from age 14 to 18.
“It was the hardest job I ever had. The lines were so long,” she said.
Chocolate pecan ice cream, made with salted pecans and served on a sugar cone, was what customers couldn’t get enough of, she said. The Youngstown shop sold five times more chocolate pecan than any other flavor.
Whenever Modarelli visits home she has to have Handel’s ice cream. In 2010, after a blizzard, she climbed over a 4-foot snow bank just to get ice cream and was still the fourth person in line, she said.
For these die-hard customers, the biggest challenge will be deciding between the new flavors.
Jahn who used to stick with grape or butter pecan, said now she has to think about crazy flavors such as blueberry cobbler and oatmeal raisin cookie.
While Handel’s is the talk of the town among previous Ohio and Pennsylvania residents, other northern residents may not be aware of the “legend,” Modarelli said.
So other ice cream vendors might not have too much to worry about.
David Zimmermann, owner of Royal Scoop Homemade Ice Cream, the oldest ice cream shop in Bonita Springs, said he is up for the competition.
At one point there were 13 different ice cream shops, not including grocery stores, about four or five miles away from the Royal Scoop, he said. Throughout the past few years ice cream shops have come and gone, but Royal Scoop, 15 Eighth Street, No. D, has remained, he said.
“We try to do what we can to improve ourselves so we become the chosen ones,” Zimmermann said.
Even Mills, loyal to Handel’s, said: “I think there is enough ice cream to go around for everyone.”