Schenectady

Schenectady ice cream stand greeted on Opening Day with new owners, name – ‘We want to help them grow’

Stella's co-owner Ashley Viscariello puts the finishing touch on a Stroop Waffle Sundae and greets customers Monday in Schenectady
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Stella's co-owner Ashley Viscariello puts the finishing touch on a Stroop Waffle Sundae and greets customers Monday in Schenectady

Although the high temperature was in the 40s and it was windy, a steady stream of customers ordered shakes, cones and sundaes on the opening day of Stella’s Creamery and Cakes.

The stand was opened Monday by Ashley Viscariello, a 28-year-old, one-time Bumpy’s employee who recently purchased the business with her husband, Gabe.

The previous owner — David Elmendorf, who had the business named Bumpy’s Polar Freeze — sparked Black Lives Matter protests outside of the business after Elmendorf allegedly sent racist texts saying he wouldn’t hire Black people.

Earlier this month, the state Attorney General’s office sued Elmendorf, alleging he called police on BLM protesters, falsely accusing them of wielding weapons. Elmendorf allegedly brandished a pellet gun and was accused of mistreating employees and violating health codes.

On Monday afternoon, Ruth Taber-Horne stood in line, recalling she attended the first BLM protest last year.

Everything was peaceful, she said, until a male worker came out and spoke. Initially, his words came across as inspiring. But then he capped the talk by stating all lives mattered, which she said put a damper on the mood.

Taber-Horne also remembered the protest being beautiful, as attendees urged employees to walk off the job, and pledged to find them new work so that they wouldn’t be without money.

Taber-Horne said learning that Elmendorf allegedly toted a pellet gun, made racist statements, and called police on protesters broke her heart.

“I had so many childhood memories of my dad bringing me here to make me feel better when something happened,” she said. “Those childhood memories have a sour note on them now.”

Her husband, Nathan Taber, said he stopped coming to Bumpy’s after the controversy.

“The fresh start makes it nicer to be here,” he said of Stella’s. “We want to help them grow and do very well.”

Jennah Kegler said she was happy to see the business under new ownership.

Kegler, who’s Black, said Bumpy’s troubles last year added “fuel to the fire,” from her hurt from George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer who put his knee on Floyd’s neck. On top of that, the world was in a pandemic, she said.

But Kegler said it was important to support the new owner.

“It was like a relief,” she said, “and I’m proud, especially given the circumstances. I had just moved out here and had no idea what I was moving into. I’m from a predominantly Black area in (Newark, New Jersey). Certain things I don’t see that often, and coming out and being part of a change, even if it is just buying ice cream, it’s important.”

After ordering a brownie sundae delight, Meredith Sheffer of Schenectady said she was offended by Elmendorf’s alleged actions. Sheffer said she’s from a multi-race family.

“The thing that broke my back was, how are you going to pull a gun on people?” she asked.

Samantha Viscariello, a sister-in-law to the new owners, said last summer’s turmoil at Bumpy’s was was “a rude awakening” for Schenectady.

“‘With Schenectady being populated with diverse people and people of color, we expected a lot more,” she said.

Samantha Viscariello said the protests were important, because the community essentially shut down Bumpy’s.

“Now everybody’s so welcome,” she said. “There’s no animosity or bad blood here. It’s just a fresh establishment for everybody and their family and friends. Who wouldn’t love that?”

Categories: Business, News, Schenectady County

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