Horray for old media

Reasons To Be Cheerful

Last Thursday, Reasons To Be Cheerful was featured on the front page of the Boston Globe West section.

Here’s a link to the article http://www.boston.com/yourtown/concord/gallery/new_ice_cream_shop/?s_campaign=8315

The response to the article has been overwhelming.

Columbus Day Weekend was our best weekend.  Lines stretched out the front door.

To top things off, we were blessed with spectacular Indian summer weather.  Temperatures soared into the 80s under crystal clear blue skies.   I couldn’t have dreamed of better weather.

Many of the customers were first timers who read the Globe article.  They traveled from as far away as Boston, Cambridge, Newton, Lowell, Medfield, Ashland, and Lynnfield (to name a few places).  We were also “discovered” by people in the neighboring towns of Acton, Bedford, Carlisle, Lincoln, Maynard, Stow, Sudbury and, Weston.  Hopefully, this will result in repeat business.

Many heartfelt thanks to the article’s author Nancy West and photographer Joanne Rath.  Thank you for taking an interest in the story behind Reasons To Be Cheerful.

One last thought, in preparing for the publication of the article, I was given the extra push to launch Reasons To Be Cheerful’s web site http://www.cheerful-reasons.com/

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Opening the Doors

Quiet Before the Storm

It’s been eleven days since Reasons To Be Cheerful opened the doors.  The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity.  As I sit here in my basement ‘office’ I can hear the sounds of bustling activity above me.  We’re serving 28 flavors of homemade ice cream, fountain drinks, amazing coffee, and luscious pastries.  Thanks to a hard working crew and a supportive neighborhood, the store’s opening has been a joy and by all measures a success.

We opened the doors on the afternoon of Monday, June 27th, a gorgeous summer day. Under normal circumstances, the day would have been stressful.  This was no normal day. Early in the day, my dad underwent a coronary angiogram that revealed several blocked arteries.  He needed coronary artery bypass surgery and an aortic valve replacement.  The surgery was scheduled for Friday.   My mind had greater worries than Reasons To Be Cheerful.

None the less, the show had to go on.  I rushed back from the hospital.  At 5:30 in the afternoon, with little fanfare, we unveiled the store sign and quietly opened the doors.

The response was immediate.  News of the opening spread like wild fire throughout West Concord.   The neighbors came.

The neighbors ate, drank, and were merry.

This is exactly why I opened an ice cream shop.  Smiling faces. Screams of joy.  In all my years as an engineer and teacher, I never received feedback quite like this.

The homemade ice cream, the cheerful atmosphere, the friendly staff…it all came together.

As for my dad, he came through the surgery with flying colors.  I know of no person alive with a stronger will to live.

L’Chaim!  To life!

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Zip A Dee Doo Dah

After 20 years of dreaming, 9 months of planning, and 5 months of building, we are open!  I feel like singing.

Zip A Dee Doo Dah
Zip A Dee Eh
My, on my!
What a wonderful day!
Plenty of sunshine headin’ my way!
Zip A Dee Doo Dah
Zip A Dee Eh
-    lyrics by  Ray Gilbert

Now for my Oscar speech.

All I can say is, it takes a village.  Thank you West Concord Village.  I look forward to serving you.  Thank you scoopers for your team work and sense of adventure.  Thank you Rick for your dedication, attention to detail, and calm presence in a sea of chaos.  Thank you Cally for your organizational skills, warm smile, and boundless energy.    Thank you Rachel for the icing on the cake.  Thank you David for Karma Coffee and my first $1.  It’s so good.  It’s all good.  Thank you Tom Raposa of Bliss Bros. Dairy for your encylopedic knowledge of all things ice cream.  Thank you Nick Pappas of Lizzy’s Homemade Ice Cream for sharing your experiences and opening up your wonderful ice cream shop.  Thank you Andy and Ken of Boston Showcase for fitting a big box in a small hole.  Thank you Rick Cantrill of Allied Cash Register for helping me keep track of my business.  Thank you Malcolm of Ice Cream University for your passion, formulas, and cell phone number.  Thank you Chris of the West Concord Five and Ten for suggesting the Gatehouse, spreading the news, and checking in.  Thank you Maynard and Jean for your faith and wisdom.   Thank you Henry Dane of Dane, Brady, and Haydon, LLP for steering me clear of the falls.  Thank you Mary Klinoff of Firefly for your je ne sais quoi.  Thank you Libby for your good cheer and double entry bookkeeping.  Thank you Paul and Leslie for your store design and “no problems” philosophy.  Thank you Colin Hamell and crew for an outstanding job.  Thank you Gabrielle for your guiding hand and watchful eye.  Thank you Vince for not trying to talk me out of this venture.  Thank you Desh for your entrepreneurship.  Thank you Phil for a wonderful and wacky mind.  Thank you Kenster for feeling groovy.  Thank you Robert Levers of Levers Advertising and Design for my new identity.  May it grow.  Thank you Edgar Stewart of Edgar Stewart Design & Illustration for the playful store graphics.  Thank you Gretchen Hollworth of Wright Designs for your steady hand on the menu boards.  Thank you Billy Crosby of Crosby Design for the shining beacon on Commonwealth Ave.  Thank you David A.F. for helping me be true to myself.  Thank you Ian Dury and the Blockheads for Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3.  (Are my two minutes up?)  Thank you friends and neighbors for your support and faith.  Thank you Mom for your love of all things ice cream.  Thank you Dad for that first taste of Toscanini’s.  Thank you Lucy for your daily walks.  Finally, thank you Max, Ellie and Jill for your love and patience.

It’s only just begun.  See you in the cafe.

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This week has been a whirlwind of activity.  We stocked our pantry with cream, fruit, candy, chocolate, flour, oats, sugar, eggs, butter…etc.  The list is endless.

Making Sorbet

Then we started making ice cream and sorbet.  If you want to make the best sorbet you need the best fruit.

Our sorbet is made with fruit and cane sugar.  The process is simple.  We wash the fruit.  Peel, cut, seed and squeeze.  Puree.  Mix by hand with sugar.  And, put it in our batch freezer.  The results are a luscious dairy free frozen dessert that tastes like fruit because it is fruit.

Next step, train the staff.  We started training our scoopers on food safety, service with a smile, the menu, and portioning.

How hard is it to make a sundae?  It’s a snap if your Elizabeth.  I’ll take that sundae on Monday.

By the way, that’s not a maraschino cherry on top.  That’s a tart cherry from Five Acre Farm.  No food coloring.  No corn syrup.   It’s natural.   It’s beautiful.  It’s delicious.  It’s another reason to be cheerful.

The final step is opening the doors.  Once we’ve churned enough ice cream to fill one of our cases, we will open for business next week.  That will be the real cherry on top.


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We Pass Muster!

Front Counter

A reason to be cheerful, we passed both our building inspection and health inspection.  Reasons To Be Cheerful complies with Town, State, and Federal Regulations.  This is a wonderful milestone.  It’s been a long time in the making.

The next step is to stock our pantry and churn the ice cream.  Before we can open the doors, our ice cream needs to be tested by a State approved laboratory. The results will be examined by the Board of Health.  If all goes well, we will have final permission to open to the public within a week.

The shop is absolutely beautiful  I can’t wait to fill the cases with vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and twenty-five other delicious flavors of ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt.

I appreciate all the well wishes from people dropping by and checking out the shop.  It’s coming together beautifully.

Now, if the Bruins can pull off a victory in Vancouver, we’ll have another  reasons to be cheerful.  Go Bruins!

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The Checklist Manifesto & Espresso

2 oz. of beauty

A lovely layer of crema coats the top of a dark shot of espresso. The first shot from my La Spazialle espresso machine.  I need the caffeine to power me through the next few weeks.

When will you be open?  I’m asked this question a dozen times a day.  I hope to open by beginning of summer.  The road ahead includes:

  • approval from the Board of Selectmen for a Common Victualler’s license (Monday, June 6th @ 7:30 PM);
  • final inspection, approval and Certificate of Occupancy from the Building/Inspections Department;
  • final inspection, approval and Permit to Operate from the Health Department;
  • approval for a food service permit from the Health Department;
  • review bids and select vendors;
  • order supplies and small wares;
  • organize the back of the house;
  • churn ice cream, sorbet, and yogurt;
  • pass a microbiological analyses for frozen desserts;
  • bake cookies and brownies;
  • prepare sauces and toppings;
  • finalize menu boards;
  • organize the front of the house;
  • train staff;
  • launch web site and advertising campaign;
  • hang sign; and,
  • open doors for business.

Whew!  I think it’s time to pull a double shot.  There’s work to be done.

Make mine a double shot.

Make mine a double.

Thank goodness for Karma Coffee.  With good, strong coffee anything is possible.

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Tops and Bottoms

Tops! The front counter top arrived today at 9 this morning.  By noon it was in place.  Fast, accurate work.

The look is old fashioned soda fountain & ice cream parlor marble.  The material is new fashioned Zodiac, a quartz composite.  Zodiac has distinct advantages over natural marble:  it’s non-porous, making it both stain and germ resistant; and, it’s super hard, making it chip and scratch resistant.  I hope it withstands the test of a million joyful uses.

Bottoms! My father, Leon Rubinstein, crafted a pair of benches for the alley.  He drove all the way from Cape Cod to deliver them.  Not bad for 81 years old.  Max and Dad assembled the benches this morning.  They match the existing bench in the Forbes Alley.  I’m thankful to have such a wonderful Dad and Son.  Please enjoy the benches.

While I’m speaking of my dad, be sure to check out his memoir “As I Am Presently Known” available on Amazon.com.  http://www.amazon.com/As-I-Am-Presently-Known/dp/0911051031/ref=pd_rhf_p_t_1 The memoir was published in 2009 and co-authored with Concord’s own Emily Rubin.

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Fourteen Thousand Reasons To Be Cheerful

Fourteen thousand are the number of glass tiles decorating the front counter.  And yes, I personally counted every tile.  Thanks to my wife Jill for selecting such beautiful tile.  The results are spectacular.

Behind the scenes, utilitarian work is in full swing.  Today, the floor in the production room is being layed.  Not as dazzling as the front counter, but just as critical to my operation.

I call the production room, the “White Room.”  This is the room where the shadows run from themselves.

The walls are covered in white fibre-reinforced polymer panels.  These panels create a smooth, fire resistant, and washable surface. The ceiling is sheet rock with white plaster.  The floor is commercial vinyl tile with a full cove.  Perfect kitchen space.

The production room is the engine of Reasons To Be Cheerful.  This is where I’ll be churning the ice cream, baking brownies, and simmering sauces.

Next week the production equipment (stainless steel tables, blast freezer, batch freezer, convection oven, rotary mixer, three compartment sink, induction cooktop) is scheduled to be installed.  Stay tuned.

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Live Music Is Better

J. Geils All-Star Jazz and Blues Revue

Jay Geils All-Star Jazz and Blues Revue

Another reason to be cheerful is live music, especially live music in Concord.  In addition to opening a dessert cafe, I am bringing Jay Geils, playing with an all-star ensemble, to the Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts in Concord.   The show is May 21st at 8:00 PM.  Live music is a passion of mine.  Sharing live music is a joy.

This show will be a once in a lifetime experience.  The Jay Geils All-Star Jazz and Blues Revue features rock legend Jay Geils from the J. Geils band; award-winning jazz guitarist Gerry Beaudoin; Grammy-winning saxophonist Fred Lipsius from Blood, Sweat and Tears; and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Doug Bell from the Bellvue Cadillacs. The band is rounded out by Gerard Beaudoin on vibes, Les Harris Jr. on drums, and Jesse Williams on bass.

The music will be a trip through the history of jazz and blues, from Count Basie to B.B. King.  Jay, Gerry, and Doug will be playing vintage instruments.

The sound and intimate setting of the Emerson Umbrella auditorium are spectacular.   Spread the news far and wide.  Jay Geils is coming over to play.  At $25/ticket ($15/ticket for students), this show is a steal.

As an added bonus, there will be ice cream!

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Into the cooler they go.

The walk-in cooler and freezer have arrived.  In the shop basement, Reasons To Be Cheerful now has room for five hundred gallons of homemade ice cream.  Enough ice cream to keep West Concord smiling on a hot summer day.

People’s first reaction to the walk-ins is, “How did they get those big boxes through the front door and down the staircase?”

The answer, of course, is one panel at a time.  Both the cooler and freezer were carried through the front door and down the stairwell into the basement where they were assembled.

These boxes are custom fabricated to fit the challenging dimensions of the basement.  It’s a pleasure and relief to see them neatly in place.

Later this week the stainless steel back service counter is schedule to arrive.  That will mark a major milestone, as the front of the store ice cream equipment will be in place.  Stay cool!

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