A most ‘Social’ place

Erin O’Keefe and Pam Geiger built Ice Cream Social in White Plains not only to be a community hub, especially in the summer months, but to help those in need.

Opened in White Plains in July 2021, Ice Cream Social is getting into gear for what promises to be a busy and exciting second summer season. Set back from Mamaroneck Avenue in a space that features a cheerful indoor design and a pretty outdoor terrace — complete with tables, chairs and big sun umbrellas — it’s a great place for families and friends to get together over ice cream, a sundae, a cappuccino or all three.

Co-owners Pam Geiger and Erin O’Keefe are themselves originally from White Plains, friends since high school, with multigenerational roots in the community. Pam, whose entire career has been in event fundraising, works full-time as senior director of special events in the development office at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, but says that ice cream is her passion and is pleased that she can put as much of her free time as she can into the business. Erin’s background is in fashion. She has styled celebrities, magazine shoots and a number of brands such as Amazon, J. Crew and Lord & Taylor. She also served as art director for Visual Country, working on multimillion-dollar campaigns for companies such as Clinique, Subaru and Tommy Hilfiger. 

The idea to open an ice cream parlor first came to the women — both young mothers — three years ago. “I wish there was an ice cream parlor in White Plains — not just in a mall,” Pam texted Erin one day. Erin responded that she thought the same thing all the time. A gap in the market had been spotted and all that remained was for the two friends to fill it. 

They were fortunate to secure the space, Erin says, which was “just a box” when they first saw it. “It didn’t exactly have that old-world charm so we had to go in a new direction. We love color. We wanted it to be fun. So it all started with the color palette (five stenciled chevrons on the wall) and everything grew from there.”

Next, they decided that they wanted Jane’s ice cream to be their supplier. Erin knew the brand from having spent a lot of time in Rhinebeck, which is close to Kingston, where Jane’s is located. “Every time I went up there, I had to get the salted caramel pretzel,” she tells WAG, a dreamy look coming into her eyes even as she says the words. (She also has enjoyed ice cream on every continent except Africa, so she knows her product.) And they both really liked what Jane’s stood for, namely hormone-free ingredients, nothing synthetic. Amy Keller, who started Jane’s, says Erin is “incredible” and has given them a huge amount of support.

“We opened not knowing anything about how to run an ice-cream shop,” Pam acknowledges. “We didn’t even know what type of equipment we would need, what temperature to set it at.” Jane’s has basically taught the women the business, both agree — “freezing, storing, scooping, etc. We wouldn’t be here today without them,” says Pam. 

Being vegan-conscious is also important to Pam and Erin, so they work to maintain at least four vegan options on the menu daily as well as many for the gluten-intolerant. 

Their best-selling flavor? Cappuccino Kahlúa, closely followed by Killer Chocolate. Pistachio is also up there. And lavender — “especially in the summer,” says Erin. “People ask me what it tastes like and I say ‘lavender,’ because that’s the only way I can describe it. And then they try it and it really does taste like lavender. People love it.”

They share stories, too, of customers who come in for ice cream every single day, “come rain shine, snow, zero degrees, whatever.” Be that as it may, it’s summer when most people’s thoughts turn to ice cream and, if last year was anything to go by, summer evenings are likely to be packed — mainly with grown-ups. “Yes, we have flavors, which lean more toward kids, I’d say. But for ice cream in general we probably have more adult customers,” Erin notes.

“And a fascinating thing I’ve noticed,” she adds, “adults really need to give themselves permission to put a topping on it. When you ask them if they’d like hot fudge, their eyes light up. Most sundaes are ordered by grown-ups.”

Ice Cream Social also plays its part in local philanthropy. “Our goal,” Erin explains, “is that Ice Cream Social will not just be a place with delicious, hormone-free ice cream but will also be an active participant in the community with cause-marketing campaigns, helping the underserved and serving as a gathering location.”

They get a lot of requests for birthdays and school dinners and they partner with local organizations such as My Sisters’ Place, White Plains Public Library and the White Plains school district. Every month they bring ice cream cakes and balloons to the kids at the nearby Coachman Center, which focuses on families in need, and talk to them about job opportunities. 

“We built Ice Cream Social to be a part of the community so we never turn anyone away. If we get an email and it sounds legitimate, we will respond,” Pam says.

“We wanted to be part of the community and also to be a gathering spot for local people, and that’s just what Ice Cream Social is,” Erin says in sum. ‘Social’ is in our name for a reason.” 

For more, visit icecreamsocialwp.com. 

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