Ice Cream Shop Owner Fights for Her Dream

For Robin Garman, the idea of owning an ice cream shop seemed like a chance to quit the rat race and make a living the old-fashioned way.

Through a colleague at her hedge fund job, the former Glen Ridge resident discovered a brand of ice cream that weighed in at only 50 calories a serving and in December, she opened a D’lites franchise in West Caldwell. After 17 years in Glen Ridge, Garman moved to Caldwell in 2003 following the death of her husband.

But being an ice cream entrepreneur isn’t all chocolate sprinkles. First came the really lousy weather of this past winter, followed by the lousy weather of spring. Then came the local frozen yogurt phenomenon Cups in Clifton, which seemed to have a magnetic pull on every frozen-treat seeking teenager in Essex and Passaic Counties. And finally came Arnold Diaz.

On May 16, Diaz — the star of Fox 5’s “Shame on You” series — came out with a report alleging that D’lites’ nutrition labeling was misleading. Not helping matters any for D’lites was the rabid on-camera reaction of Magda Abt’s brother after Diaz reportedly jostled Abt while she was holding her baby. Abt, who was Garman’s colleague at the hedge fund she worked at in New York City, owns a D’lites store in Woodbury Village, NY, which was also featured in Diaz’s story.

Abt and Garman felt that Diaz had done a hatchet job, and they stood by their numbers. They say that Diaz received a supplemental lab report, supporting D’lites nutritional claims, which he ignored. So they sued Fox 5 for defamation and slander. They were serious enough to make sure the press release announcing the the lawsuit appeared on the Nasdaq/OMX Tower in Times Square.

“All I wanted was to stand behind the counter, give people tastes of different flavors, watch their eyes light up, engage in a conversation face-to-face,” Garman said in her West Caldwell store on Wednesday.

“I’m fighting Cups. I’m fighting Fox. I thought I was escaping the stress of Wall Street and here I am battling giant corporations.”

Cups was developed by the Briad Group of Livingston, the fifth-largest restaurant franchise operator in the U.S.

Garman has a Cups strategy as well. Although she’s not going to let customers pump their own ice cream — Cups puts customers at the yogurt pumps — she plans to open a toppings bar for customers who want to scoop their own.  She plans to split the store into two service styles: old-school customers will pay by the serving size and number of toppings. New-school customers will add their own toppings and pay by weight.

D’lites offers six flavors, which change daily, and everybody gets free samples until they find a flavor they like. I settled on the chai flavor, which was pleasantly spicy and unusual. Tart yogurt, which I also liked, is similar to the product at Red Mango on Church Street. As the afternoon sun slanted through the west-facing windows, customers came and went, oblivious to controversy.

“As soon as people taste my ice cream, they become my customer,” Garman said. “There’s going to be a flavor you like. And it’s creamy.”

D’Lites is located in West Caldwell Plaza, 554 Passaic Avenue, and is open seven days a week. Daily flavors are posted on its Facebook page.

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  1. Hopefully this tastes NOTHING like Red Mango, which we simply call Throw-up in a Cup (Good mornin’!!!).

    But what’s up with the lawsuit?

    The odd thing here is that if I didn’t read about the right/wrong calorie and fat stuff here, I wouldn’t have known.

    And really, are folks making decisions based on this info?

    I’ve seen this one before:

  2. I completely agree about Red Mango prof.

    I’d like to try this place out. My wife and I are always on the lookout for a new ice cream place, especially soft serve. We’ve tried Cups a few times, and while I do find it tasty, it’s nowhere near worth it for the time it takes just to get in the door. I’m hoping that fad fizzles sooner rather than later, but by the looks of the lines and the increasing temperature, doesn’t look like it will any time soon.

  3. I’d never heard of this store, but thanks to this story I’ll be visiting them soon! Maybe even this afternoon, since our much beloved Summer Hours start today and I need to go over to the West Caldwell Shoprite anyway.

  4. I LOVE this story. So much that I’m willing to forgive that it’s centered on Outer Baristaville (West Caldwell). This woman works leaves a hedge fund to open an ice cream shop and gets embroiled with Fox muckrakers, a law suit and publicity campaign. And what’s most surprising, the story does not appear at all on a competing web site Who Shall Not Be Named.

  5. “Who Shall Not Be Named” reminds me of my mother. I remember reading “She” which i believe is the source of that phrase eons ago at her suggestion.

  6. Really? No need, I suppose, to give the competition free publicity. Not to worry Baristas, your fans complain now and more than again, but faithfully return. The mix of strong personalities helps to make this site. I doubt that the intelligent repartee of the insightful, funny, spirited posters will be duplicated elsewhere.

  7. Funny that the lab report and claims of the ice cream store are not offered in the report. Hmmmm. Strange, it seems to be the crux of the dispute. What gives?

  8. “As soon as people taste my ice cream, they become my customer…”

    Then offer the first one for free and you will build your customer base very quickly.

  9. Allow me to suggest, after tasting the stuff a few weeks back, that D’lites hasn’t got a patch on, say, Applegate Farms. Or even on Edy’s orTurkey Hill.

    Really, too, if God had intended ice cream to come in at around 50 calories a serving, it’d only come in “flavors” like broccoli, kale and turnip. (Has anyone ever had Tofutti? Is is slanderous to opine that it’s awful?) You want that low a caloric content in dessert, then just eat a fistful of strawberries. Never been to Cups but yes, Red Mango is gruesome. A taste of whatever flavor summons up agricultural byproducts rather than fruits grown in orchards.

    To cast this as as battle of one valiant local merchant vs. “giant” corporations, and I hold no love for Arnold Diaz, is a bit much. There really doesn’t seem to be much of a story here (the efforts of a reliable few “Lost Cause”-type posters notwithstanding to churn one up, however patchy the presented “facts” in the matter.), at least not without the info ROC notes is curiously missing.

  10. The delite nutritional label claims 50 calories per half cup. The lab analysis shows 203 calories per half cup. So how, exactly, did Diaz get it wrong?

  11. Sometimes negative publicity is ok too. My mouth is watering for the Chai flavor and can’t wait to go there and try it out, calories shmalories, it’s ice cream.

  12. Ummm…

    Nice try workychief (and Baristas), but look 8 HOURS EARLIER and you’ll see— the same link.

    C’mon, did you really think it would take a true Seinfeld fan all day to remember Newman’s great line?

    All I can say is NICE GAME PRETTY BOY….. (the beginning of the clip is messed up, but then it’s fine).

  13. The delite nutritional label claims 50 calories per half cup. The lab analysis shows 203 calories per half cup. So how, exactly, did Diaz get it wrong?

    It’s 203 calories if you also eat the serving container, which is a sugar infused wheat fiber matrix dipped in an egg wash, coated with confectioners sugar and baked for 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

  14. I’d go sample the West Caldwell ice cream just to lend support to a local person who was apparently slandered — although by definition “ice cream” has to be more than 50 calories per serving, unless that serving is very tiny.

  15. Nothing like a small business being maligned by an overpaid talking suit in the name of consumer protection.
    It’s tough being a small business owner in this country and particularly in this state. A lot of lip service paid by politicos but Corporate welfare rules the day.
    The small business gets Gotz!

  16. I have a hard time believing that an ice cream shop in W Caldwell is in competition with one in Clifton. Sure maybe some teenagers with their parent’s gas card and time on their hands will make the drive but this would be a blip. Ice cream shops are local businesses.

    Retail is tough. I’ll echo the good wishes.

  17. In my personal opinion, it seems sketchy. The banner ad for D’lites that just popped up on the page with this objective article says “Only 50 calories, 3g sugar & 6g carbs per serving.” The problem is that – according to Fox’s lab – “serving” doesn’t actually mean what they serve to you at d’lites. Apparently, if you go in and ask for a small (which has “50 calories” written on the container) you get about 200 calories. If you buy a small and throw 3/4ths of it away then you have 50 calories and 4 oz of ice cream as promised.

    I was even more surprised by this statement from the above website “All of our ice cream flavors are made from either the Vanilla DLC or Chocolate DLC base and therefore have the same nutritional values as below.” Really?!?!? You had SNICKERS flavor last week. How do you make a _candy bar_ flavored ice cream with the exact same nutritional value as the base?

    Obviously this is just my opinion and I haven’t done the lab tests, but I spent (way too much) time reading the background documents on the Fox site. I’m sure it’s the most delicious soft serve in the land – but I won’t be eating it expecting to lose weight.

  18. Snickers flavor soft serve ice cream does not require the addition of any candy product. Snickers soft serve ice cream is made by adding caramel and peanut butter flavorings to chocolate based mix. Typically, flavors are added at a ratio of 1 ounce to 1 gallon (128 ounces) of mix since flavorings are extremely concentrated. That liquid mix is then whipped in the machines, to produce the finished product.

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