It takes something fairly spectacular to drag my attention from Lady Gaga singing “Poker Face” on my headset at 6 a.m. on a warm March day, but Bill Marchal did it with a simple statement.
“You know what. March 19.”
Say no more. But dang. That’s still a week away — seven days too many.
Those of you who live where soft-serve ice cream (and all the related foodstuffs that accompany it) is available year round won’t understand what happens when Bill Marchal opens his Dari Freeze for the season. Marchal’s ice cream palace — the “Whippy Dip” to a certain crowd, but “Benny’s” to those who know the history and have been eating there for at least 30 years — opens every year in mid-March and the hoardes literally come out to feast.
From all directions they come…by foot, on bicycle, motorcycle, stroller, car, truck…some at a run. It’s as if Marchal invited everyone to a party, which — in a way — it is. A party to mark the end of the cold, snowy yuk that is Ohio.
There is nothing quite as wonderful as that first cone of the year, the ice cream swirling in little puffs toward the pointed tip. Ahhhh…spring has come and the livin’ is easy…at least while indulging in a favorite sandwich or ice cream fantasy or…my all-time favorite — fried dill pickles. Hot, sour and crispy…yum.
It’s a busy place much of the time. At noon, those who have been eating at their desk all winter — toiling away — come out to play. And eat. In the summer during Little League and swim team season, there are longggg lines at the windows.
Even pets are welcome — it’s one of the few places one can eat with a dog panting or snoozing underfoot European cafe-style. In fact, a puppy cone is on the menu; it comes topped with a dog biscuit. There’s even a large water dish — imprinted with tiny pawprints — that is filled upon request.
And Marchal? He’s in the middle of all the mayhem, cleaning tables, picking up trash, and doing what he does best — making sure his customers are happy.
And boy, are we happy. How could we not be?