Takoma Park ice cream shop is closing, but will return with added sweetness

January 23, 2013

What goes on behind the scenes at Summer Delights in Takoma Park is not an exact science, ice creamer Greg Moorin said.

Yet, there is intense analysis.

“No computers, no timers. It’s all done by taste, aroma and feel of the product,” said Moorin, the owner who has served the sweet tooths of “Takomanites” for years with a bantering personality and a deadpan sense of humor.

Since it first inhabited its Laurel Avenue spot in 1999 — where Moorin and his treats have become community staples — the shop is using up the last of its gourmet ice cream, breakfast and lunch foods before its doors close late this month to make way for a new restaurant.

But it will be back.

Moorin, who essentially runs the shop solo, said he plans to return to Takoma Park, in a new location, within the year with a similar name, although the exact when and where are shrouded in good-natured mystery.

After his break of sorts from the business, Moorin said, he will open a “more upscale” shop and “come back with some death-defying acts by scoop.”

Moorin said he hopes to attend a week-long immersion class at an undisclosed East Coast school — he has not yet been officially accepted — where he would learn how to make authentic Italian desserts, including gelato.

It won’t be the first time he has gone to dessert school: He also attended a weekend class in 2004 at Penn State to hone his ice cream-making skills.

As Moorin continues to develop and add to his list of ice cream and other desserts, he continues to build on a business born of a simple, delicious idea.

The shop began in 1983 as a small, seasonal ice cream operation in a former office of his family’s dry-cleaning business in Takoma Park.

“Our family’s been self-employed since the ’20s, and dry-cleaning and food service has been synonymous with my father, my grandfather and myself,” Moorin said.

The business ­— at which the not-yet-handmade ice cream scoops were handed out at the office window — would move to the Old Takoma location in 1999, which was once decorated with Elvis and other 1950s and 1960s memorabilia and now features the art and other design touches of Moorin’s daughter.

Moorin’s dad, Bernard, ran the paperwork side of the business — and chipped in as a taste tester — and Moorin was in charge of the food and customer service.

“When I moved here, I had no idea the direction I was gonna go in,” Moorin said.

Yet he already was accustomed to hard work after his time in the dry-cleaning business, he said. He quickly learned the ropes of running the shop, where he also serves as a short-order cook who can dish up breakfast and lunch.

Although he has made his own ice cream for years, Moorin said the experimentation continues.

“I’m never satisfied, and I think that’s probably why the Takomanites enjoy [the ice cream], because I’m always pushing and trying to tweak my recipes,” he said.

Moorin’s roughly 100 ice cream recipes are stored in only one place.

“I have none of them written down, so Alzheimer’s is out of the question for me as long as I want to be in the business,” he said.

For Moorin, every flavor has the potential to be exciting — especially one.

“It’s hard to make a good vanilla,” he said.

Moorin’s version is based on what he will tell you is the best there is: vanilla from Madagascar.

And Moorin has not made just one type of chocolate ice cream. He has made 10. His signature flavor is bittersweet chocolate.

Such in-depth knowledge of his ice cream’s composition is a result of years of research, including time at professional shows and with other cooks.

Customers also fuel development of the flavors, he said.

“I think it’s a marriage between the customer and myself, because the whole idea of being in the ice cream business is you’re affecting the neighborhood or an area that enjoys ice cream,” he said. “I think you have to be sensitive to their needs.”

With the breakfast and lunch rushes finished on a recent January evening, Moorin had time to relax a bit as visitors came in the shop, some to grab a scoop and some just to talk.

James Bryson of Takoma Park said he used to meet the elder Moorin, who died recently, for breakfast each week for about a year.

“This is like a little meeting place for people,” Bryson said, where people can “chew the fat” and talk about their “aches and pains.”

He and other regulars will “readapt” to the new location, he said.

“I’m gonna be there, that’s for sure,” Bryson said.

Newma Castillo of Takoma Park recently popped by the shop after a run to grab a cup of coffee and lend a hand by sweeping the floor.

Castillo described Moorin as a foundation of the community whom she has known “forever.”

“He’s like your cup of coffee in the morning,” Castillo said. “If I want real ice cream, I know where to come.”

Visiting from a few doors down the road, Magic Carpet antiques shop owner Deniz Kanter said as she stood with Moorin and other regulars that she’s glad Moorin, his sense of humor and espresso ice cream will return to Takoma Park.

“You feel like you’re coming to a friend’s shop more than anything,” she said.

For all his hard work, Moorin said, he would not be where he is today without his family — especially his father.

“My dad and I, to coin a phrase, were tighter than two ticks on a bull’s [behind],” he said.

Moorin described his dad as a “very tough taskmaster” who told him the truth and helped him learn to hone his skills and be careful with his friends and finances.

“I had a father that would teach, spread whatever he knew, for those who would listen,” Moorin said.

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