The small, ordinary sign “Tony’s Ice Cream and Sandwiches” on the northeast corner of a nondescript yellow brick building in downtown Gastonia, NC, poorly describes for passersby what treats lie inside. As I was driving through Gastonia after attending a barbecue cookoff in nearby Kings Mountain, a parking lot packed with rows of cars grabbed my attention.
|The streetside sign modestly indicates the location of a long-time favorite.|
Then I saw several people walking out as they licked tall Styrofoam cups or drank from straws. (Only later did I learn that the cups were carrying milk shakes.) I immediately made a U-turn to see what I was missing. When I saw a sign on the wall that says, “Since 1915,” I knew that I needed to go inside to verify its accuracy.
|An exterior wall of Tony's proclaims its service for several generations.|
The interior of the store looks like only modest renovations have been made over the decades. A vintage 1947-era pink and green neon clock told me that mid-afternoon had arrived, although the long lines at the counter indicated that it was prime time for ice cream. Every booth – covered in its original red vinyl – was also occupied.
|The line of customers waiting for ice cream never seems to end.|
A display that says Tony’s Cheerwine ice cream is “delicious” convinced me that I should choose that flavor. This choice is unusual for me, but Cheerwine is an area favorite and has a cultural connection. Because many customers were enjoying milk shakes, not ordering at least one would be a mistake. Fortunately, my wife agreed and ordered a shake that we shared – and it was better than the ice cream cup. Each milk shake is made with three scoops of ice cream, which is fresh because it’s made in the plant next door to the restaurant.
|The historic wall clock has kept time for decades.|
|Cheerwine was my choice|
of ice cream flavor.
|A milk shake has more ice cream that you can imagine.|
In the Gastonia area, Tony’s is a cause célèbre. It’s been successful for more than 100 years and was cited recently by the Gaston Gazette as one of the 10 oldest restaurants in the county. If it retains its loyal following, it’ll continue to be celebrated for many more years.
|Trucks at the plant next door waiting to begin their next deliveries are . . .|
|much more efficient than earlier delivery techniques.|