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Ice Cream Chronicles (Pt. 10): Everyone Needs Their Toft's

The front of the Fremont parlor location
While my final ice cream post for the summer of 2014 is about the Sandusky-based Toft's, in reality it's about much more than the ice cream from Ohio's oldest dairy

Founded in 1900, Toft's was actually one of the first Ohio-based ice cream brands I saw advertised here in the Columbus metro area. A freezer case where one could grab a couple scoops of their ice cream is available to customers of The Andersons General Store in the Sawmill Road area of Northwest Columbus. Ironically, seeing it on every visit to the store was one of the main reasons why I never sampled it since moving here, despite my finding out that this is just about the only place in Central Ohio to sample their products. I figured since it was always there, I could have it anytime I wanted.

In the scope of things, Toft's is a real gem in that it remains locally and family owned. Their parlor at their headquarters in Sandusky is from all I read a truly nice setup and worth a visit (and yes, that is on the docket for me.) However, it may not be the optimal way for a neophyte to their products to sample their ice cream. From various visitors' reviews, it appears that they do not allow traditional sampling (e.g. using little spoons to sample various flavors) like most other ice cream places. This is made up quite a bit by the size of the scoops they serve you: they are HUGE, essentially making a small-size a large and a large-size something closer to ludicrous-size (to borrow a Spaceballs reference.) It seems like visitors would be best served by knowing what they really, really want and bringing a large appetite or a friend (or perhaps both.)

The interior of Toft's Ice Cream Parlor in Fremont
Fortunately, there is a remedy for this: Toft's has two more parlors nearby, and my spouse and I had the pleasant opportunity to make a side trip to the location in Fremont (which does allow sampling) on a jaunt to the supermarket to pick up a few items.

Residing in an aging strip mall in the northwest portion of town, this Toft's parlor doesn't look like much from the outside. The interior also shows the age of the building it resides in, but is otherwise well-kept and roomy. Besides their ice cream and related items such as sundaes and shakes, a variety of lunch items are available, including locally-based products like Ballreich's potato chips, Tony Packo's pickles, and a sandwich featuring Root's shredded chicken.

As lunchtime was just around the corner, we did our fair sampling of their many selections (including the Key Lime Pie, Mackinac Island Fudge and the Black Sweet Cherry) before settling on a single scoop option (scoops are very reasonably priced, from $2.75 for a single scoop to $5 for a quadruple.) Our selections, the Muddy's Sea Salt Slam (released in concert with the Toledo Mud Hens baseball team, this flavor sports salty caramel streaks and chocolate covered peanuts in vanilla ice cream) and my standard butter pecan were very similar to the quality and texture of the ice creams we sampled at Velvet Ice Cream in Utica.

Sunday scoops are hard to beat
What made this visit stick out here was this was the first visit with a youngster in our tow (my spouse's niece.) Her eyes lit up when we asked her if she wanted to join us on our supermarket trip, and even more so when we said we were going to drop by Toft's. And for her, there was no debate: it was Tons of Turtles (a caramel extravaganza featuring chocolate-caramel turtles and caramel slivers inside a french vanilla base) or bust.

I realized as we sat together enjoying our scoops that, despite all the enjoyment that my adult-aged self has received from my visits to all these ice cream shops, it never could match the raw excitement you get as a youngster. Ice cream, whether it be from the iconic ice cream truck and its blaring music, the mom & pop shop on the corner, or the big chain place at the mall, is one of the first things with which one typically identifies and associates as one grows up. This is a place that lets you swirl sweet memories into a base of your own special selection of flavors, and this affiliation often carries through to adulthood, no matter if you have moved on to "better" ice cream.

In other words, everyone who loves this frozen treat inherits and, in a way, needs their version of Toft's. So whatever name your own Toft's goes by, remember it fondly, fly their flag proudly, and keep licking away.

2017 Update: Toft's location in Fremont closed down in 2016.  However, their corporate location in Sandusky continues on business as usual - for more information on them, please consult my blogpost detailing our visit.

Location Visited:
Toft's Dairy Ice Cream Parlor
1306 Oak Harbor Rd
Fremont, OH 43420
(419) 334-7400

Headquarters:
3717 Venice Road
Sandusky, OH 44870
(419) 625-5490

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