TRAJECTORY

     Never had a commercial event in our small town generated more anticipation than the opening of an ice cream shop known as Scoupe de Ville.

     For months, after the “Coming Soon” sign was posted, the former nail salon at the corner of Central and Main was under renovation. First, the nondescript exterior gave way to vivid streamers of pink and blue bunting. Next, the parking lot was repaved from pitted concrete to smooth asphalt with stripes painted like candy canes. Excitement reached a fever pitch when a half-sized replica of an electric blue Cadillac appeared. It hung from a crane in the parking lot for two days awaiting installation, long enough for everyone in town to see it. Finally, after we tired of telling the children: “Soon, soon, it will be open soon,” balloons and banners announcing “Grand Opening” were hung around the building.
     Children were not the only ones who were excited. Adults viewed the store as a sign of class, of local distinction.      

     “Who needs Baskin-Robbins or Haagen Dazs?” we asked each other. We will have an authentic ice cream parlor. We speculated that it would not be long before a cheese shop and an art gallery would open.
     Needless to say, the first week of business was spectacular. The parking lot was full. People waited in line around the block. Families strategized that it was necessary to have ice cream at four in the afternoon, before dinner, just so that they could sit at a table. Following the decorating theme, sundaes were served in cardboard containers shaped like Cadillac convertibles.
     It was a week or two before the first hints of disappointment seeped out.
     “The service was slow,” said some.
     “My ice cream was melted,” said others.
     “Mine was lumpy,” said one.
      “The prices, my God, can you believe the prices?” commiserated several adults.
       At the end of the first month, there were spaces available in the parking lot and several empty tables in the parlor. The jovial owner, a jowly Floridian, who had beamed in the first week, now appeared sullen. He raised himself slowly from a corner stool to supervise the teen-aged employees.
T     he model Cadillac still gleamed in the center of the dining room but the juke box now had an “out of order” sign. The tables were sometimes dirty. When a dish dropped, the now-quiet room heard it break, clatter several feet, and finally spin into agonizing silence.
     After two months, there appeared a sign in the window: “Check out our new, lower-priced menu.” However, the children had moved on – prices were not their issue.
     “Let’s go to Baskin-Robbins,” they begged. “It’s faster.”
     “Let’s go to Haagen-Dazs, their cones are bigger.”
     After three months, Scoupe de Ville was a ghostly scene. The owner served the few customers himself, since business was so slow. No one was fired, he assured a concerned customer, since most of the teen-aged staff, dependent upon tips, simply quit showing up.
     A “Business for Sale” sign marked the fourth-month anniversary. Hardly anyone noticed when an “Out of Business” sign appeared several months later. By the sixth month, weeds grew in the parking lot; the brilliant colors were faded. Someone said the owner had skipped out on his lease and gone back to Florida.
     “What do you think will go in there?” people asked, eventually.
     “We need a bagel shop,” said one.
     “How ‘bout a Thai restaurant?” asked another.
     “Maybe a nail salon,” one woman said. “We could really use one.”
     “Yes,” nodded the others.

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