If you’re a local in the Binghamton area or a student at Binghamton University, then you might be familiar with Sugar Lips Ice Cream Shop at 103 Riverside Drive and its welcoming owner, Fritz Vail. If you aren’t, however, Sugar Lips Ice Cream Shop is one of the oldest operating ice cream stands in Broome County, even dating back to before Vail and his brother, Brian, and wife, Laurie, started the business nearly 10 years ago. According to Vail, he and his brother have always enjoyed the atmosphere and rush of attending to lots of customers at once and the roadside appeal of the building.
“[It] felt like we were buying a little piece of history,” Vail said.
The owners and workers at Sugar Lips pride themselves on the customer service they provide as well as their quality products. Items on the menu include Perry’s Ice Cream, classic soft serve and specialty sundaes, hard homemade ice cream, Italian ice, gelato and vegan and dairy-free options. When asked about how they come up with all the different ice cream flavor combinations, Vail said that they get inspiration from employees, customers and even other shops. For instance, a BU student pitched their newest hit, dubbed ‘Cereal Killer,’ which features cereal-flavored ice cream with Fruity Pebbles, Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms.
“We’re always willing to take on ideas and try it,” Vail said.
Other popular original flavors include Cookie Monster, which features blue vanilla ice cream with Oreo and cookie dough pieces, Holy Purple Cow, which is black raspberry ice cream with dark chocolate chips, All Nighter, a coffee-flavored ice cream with M&M’s and cookie dough bites, and M+M 8-mile, an M&M ice cream with M&M’s and cookie dough pieces. Other specialty flavors include Pear Cardamom, Rose Pistachio and Nutella Pretzel. Some recent additions to the menu are Couch Potato — which features potato chips, pretzels and peanut M&M’s, and Cookie Butter, which plays off of the flavor from spicy European cookies. Generally, there’s an assortment of toppings and add-ons, with prices ranging from $2 to $9.
According to Vail, when Sugar Lips Ice Cream Shop was getting ready to open back up in early March of last year, right as the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the New York State Department of Health encouraged them to remain open and operate their takeout business. In response to this, the employees at Sugar Lips Ice Cream Shop closely followed safety guidelines, maintaining a sanitary space and promoting social distancing. By staying open, Sugar Lips Ice Cream Shop gave many people somewhere to go. Subsequently, they also started to make a lot more homemade ice cream last year, as there was a higher demand for pints, quarts and customers taking their orders to-go.
Amelia Rossi, a junior majoring in neuroscience, has been an employee at Sugar Lips Ice Cream Shop since September 2020 and wrote about her time there in an email.
“My experience working there has been really great honestly,” Rossi wrote. “I do really enjoy it and I love interacting with the customers.”
Vail said the atmosphere, employees and customers add to the work environment.
“We like doing what we do here, and I hope that that shows,” Vail said. “I look forward to this season every year.”
As for future prospective improvements, Vail plans on adding new flavors to the menu, seating areas around the outside the building and maybe even a canopy. Additionally, the owners are getting ready to launch a mobile unit and perhaps the biggest change is the installation of a new machine that can potentially make up to four times as much ice cream as before.
One important detail to note is that Sugar Lips Ice Cream Shop is typically closed during colder months — early November to mid/late March, depending on the weather. As of right now, the store is open seven days a week, from noon until 10 p.m.