Waiting for his ice cream on Sunday, Sept. 30, John Holland, a longtime Catonsville resident, realized he had a question for the woman scooping his dessert.
“Is this it?” Holland asked. He remembered the store would be closing.
“This is it,” said Rhonda Chase, co-owner of You Scream Ice Cream, an ice cream shop that’s stood at 821 Frederick Road, serving Hershey’s ice cream, for 10 years.
“I’m glad we stopped by today,” Holland said.
After being handed an ice cream cone to hand to his daughter, Elizabeth, Holland reached back across the counter to shake Rhonda Chase’s hand and to thank her and her family for their work.
“This place is a Catonsville institution,” Holland said.
Rhonda Chase thanked Holland and assured him that she and her husband, Phil Chase, would still be around Frederick Road and involved in the community.
“We’ll probably see you around The ‘Ville,” she said. “Because now we’ll have the time!”
Rhonda Chase and her husband, Phil Chase, made the decision to close the shop after about 14 total years in the ice cream business. Before opening on Frederick Road, the couple ran an ice cream stand on weekends at the Patapsco Flea Market.
Before that, the couple held a myriad of jobs. Rhonda Chase had been a substitute teacher, worked in an engineering firm and worked as a speech language pathologist. Phil Chase had served in the military and worked in Baltimore City Schools.
They had purchased a small business in the flea market within two weeks of seeing it was for sale, Rhonda Chase said. The previous owner did not make their own ice cream, so the Chases would not have to worry about learning how to do that.
In 2008, they decided to move the shop to its permanent home, in Catonsville, and give it the name “You Scream Ice Cream,” after living in and around Catonsville for years.
“We always did our business up and down this main street,” Rhonda Chase said. “But we never thought we’d have our own business here. We were surprised at how welcoming the community has been.”
When they first moved the shop to Catonsville, Phil Chase said, other restaurants up and down Frederick Road offered ice cream — he cited the Friendly’s, which used to sit at 784 Frederick Road, as an example.
But around the time the Chases moved their operation to Catonsville, Phil Chase said, the town was turning away from “chain” businesses, which helped them get started.
“What helped us a whole lot is that Catonsville is a little historic town. People like to stay here,” Phil Chase said. “Our theme was ‘old fashioned.’ There was already ice cream in the area, we wanted to bring something a little different.”
The couple soon discovered that owning an ice cream parlor was their “passion.” And, Rhonda Chase said, she doesn’t even eat that much ice cream. They just liked serving their customers and getting to know them.
“We found out this was really kind of the perfect fit for that point in our lives. We’ve met a lot of people, and we’ve made friends and we had the opportunity to talk to people in different walks of life and to share our story, and to hear their stories and see their kids grow up,” Rhonda Chase said. “It’s bittersweet to leave that.”
Joe Poisal, president of the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce, said the news of the shop closing and the Chases retiring was “wonderful” for the couple and “sad” for the community.
“The little ice cream store on Frederick Road will be missed, and we would hope that a similar business will open up,” Poisal said. “It was always nice to see families there.”
What comes next
Rhonda and Phil Chase said they’ve been together since 1979 and married for 35 years. For the last 14 years, they’ve worked together, whether at the flea market or at You Scream Ice Cream.
“It’s tough when you run a business. As a small business, to do it right, you’re kind of all in. We would always miss opportunities to connect with family,” Rhonda Chase said. “Birthday parties, weddings, family get togethers, it was always difficult.”
Rhonda and Phil Chase said retiring from the shop was not easy. They struggled with the decision.
“We were always kind of on the fence,” Rhonda Chase said. “Do we close the shop and disappoint the customer base, many of whom have become like a family to us? Or do we continue to miss the family gatherings?”
Ultimately, she said, the decision was about doing what was “best for us now,” not what was best for them “ten years ago.”
After announcing the closing, about a month or so ago, Catonsville residents and fans of the shop started keeping track of the looming date and would ask about it, Rhonda Chase said.
On Saturday, Sept. 29, and Sunday, Sept. 30, more than 100 customers came through the store, Rhonda Chase said. You Scream Ice Cream will be holding a 50 percent-off “blowout sale” Sunday, Oct. 7 around 2 p.m. to clear our remaining inventory.
The Chases said they aren’t sure what sort of venture will come next for them.
Eric Silva, a Catonsville native, said he planned his Sunday around coming to You Scream Ice Cream one last time. He brought his two children, Leif Silva, age 7, and Aras Soltesz, age 3.
He said that the way Catonsville feels could change when the shop closes, especially depending on what business comes to fill its place. He said the ice cream shop was “perfect for the spot” on Frederick Road.
“The people here are so wonderful,” Silva said. “Missing them will be what’s the most different.”