SCHENECTADY — Bumpy’s Polar Freeze on State Street, the seasonal ice cream stand at the center of a series of controversies earlier this year, has new owners and, within a few weeks, will have a new name.
A Schenectady couple, Gabe and Ashley Viscariello, have bought the 2013 State St. property from owner David Byrnes, and they are planning to rebrand the business as Stella’s Creamery & Cakes, naming it for their nearly 2-year-old daughter.
Ashley Viscariello worked at Bumpy’s when she was in high school a decade ago, when Byrnes and his wife, Carrie, were the operators. She’s followed this year’s series of controversies closely and thinks a new name is needed.
“We just feel like it’s tarnished at this point. We feel like it needs a rebranding,” she said.
Stella’s will still have ice cream, but will also offer cakes. It will have a different and more limited menu than Bumpy’s had, she said, but the offerings won’t be dramatically different.
“It’s going to be a whole new menu, but still offer ice cream and food,” Ashley said.
For now, the display sign facing the street says, “New Owners See You in 2021,” but a new sign with the new name is expected to go up within a few weeks.
The switch away from the Bumpy’s name follows a summer in which the business made a lot of headlines, none of them good for business.
Business owner David Elmendorf was fined $10,000 and then ordered closed by Schenectady County Public Health Services for an uncorrected state health code violation, combined with a refusal to enforce state COVID-19 social distancing and restaurant restrictions.
Separately, Elmendorf was accused of using racist language in text messages that brought protesters to the establishment on several occasions, urging a boycott. Then, in October, he was arrested on a felony charge after being accused of assaulting a process server outside his home.
Since late June, the business has been closed under a restraining order sought by the county Public Health Services because of the code violation dispute.
While Elmendorf owned the business in recent years, the property actually was still owned by Byrnes, the founder of the Bumpy’s business in the 1980s, who now lives in Florida. He had a rent dispute with Elmendorf separate from the other controversies, and was seeking his eviction even prior to the run-ins with Health Services.
Byrnes confirmed he had sold the property to the young couple.
Ashley Viscariello said the new business will follow all the appropriate guidelines and health department standards. She hopes it can open in early April.
“It’s been a very, very successful business so we’re hoping for a return to that,” she said.
Ashley currently works in human resources but expects to leave her job and make Stella’s her full-time job. Gabe Viscariello, who is an engineer for National Grid, will be keeping his job.
Schenectady County Attorney Chris Gardner said the county continues to pursue efforts to collect the $10,000 fine from Elmendorf, but the new owners will have a clean slate — they will simply need to pass a Health Department inspection before opening.
He called the change in ownership a good outcome for the county, and said he wished them success.
“A lot of people enjoyed going to Bumpy’s,” Gardner said. “It’s a nice ice cream place … I think it vindicates the county’s approach on enforcement of health department and COVID violations.”