Bittersweet goodbye as Ballard’s Ice Cream in Concord’s South End prepares to close for good

  • Norm Ballard waits at the pick up window of Ballard’s on Friday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Even the Ballard's signs will be up for sale next week. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The original building when the Ballards bought the property in McKee Square in 1980. Courtesy

  • The store after Norm and Doris Ballard had made renovations for splitting the ice cream store from the novelties store. Courtesy—

  • Norm Ballard makes an ice cream cone at Ballard’s, the South End shop he and his wife Doris have owned since 1980. They have sold the building and are closing up the ice cream shop next week. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Norm Ballard makes an ice cream cone at Ballard's, the shot he and his wife Doris have owned since 1980. They have sold the building and closing up the ice cream shop next week. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Four-year-old Gideon Dudley of Chichester enjoys his rainbow swirl ice cream with his parents and younger brother at Ballard’s on Friday.

  • Gideon Dudley, 4, of Chichester enjoys his rainbow swirl ice cream with his parents and younger brother at Ballard’s on Friday, August 30, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Gideon Dudley, 4, of Chichester enjoys his rainbow swirl ice cream with his parents and younger brother at Ballard’s on Friday, August 30, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 8/30/2019 4:39:41 PM

A South End staple of almost 40 years will be shuttering its doors next weekend. Ballard’s Ice Cream will serve its last cups, cones and sundaes on Sept. 7.

“It is really bittersweet to be closing the last of the Ballard’s Family businesses,” Doris and Norm Ballard wrote in a Facebook post earlier this week. “We will certainly miss seeing our wonderful customers, and would have hoped to keep the business going for many more years, but it’s time for us to take a break and start to enjoy life before it’s too late.”

On the last day of business, Norm Ballard plans to have a farewell party to say goodbye to the neighborhood where he’s dished out ice cream since 1980 and also a yard sale, where restaurant equipment and Ballard’s picnic tables, swings, chairs and the giant train set will be up for purchase, as well as personal items from the Ballard’s apartment above the shop.

“I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff over 39 years and we are going to a condo,” Ballard said. “I don’t need a snow thrower, I don’t need a lawnmower, I don’t need ladders and I don’t need to paint outside.”

It’s not easy to go, but it’s time, Ballard said.

“It’s a good business, we’ve done well,” Ballard said. “We're not millionaires and it's never going to happen at $3.00 a sale.”

The Ballards said a naturopathic medicine practice, Whole Health Concord, will be taking over the building.

“We are confident that they will be a wonderful addition to the South End,” the Ballards wrote.

At Ballard’s, open in Concord for 39 years, customers find 53 flavors of hard ice cream, and 16 soft serve, along with a menu of sandwiches and fried food. Norm Ballard told the Monitor in 2016 his favorite menu item is his classic vanilla soft serve, which he says “is to die for.”

Ballard wrote on Facebook that they will be hosting the Ballard’s annual ice cream sell-off on Friday, Sept. 6, starting at 5 p.m. and continuing on Saturday, Sept. 7, their last day of business.

Norm Ballard announced three years ago that the family was looking to sell their ice cream business. He said then he was hoping to wait to sell until he found someone who wanted to open up another ice cream shop.

But it turned out no one wanted the ice cream business to go along with the property.

“Because it’s such a niche business, with the ice cream stand and the store that used to be here and the two apartments upstairs, it wasn’t encouraging for anyone to buy it for more than the location and the building,” Ballard said. “Unfortunately for the South End, they will not have an ice cream stand here anymore.”

Ballard said he gets it. 

“If you have $556,000, do you want to want to buy an ice cream stand in a building and work your ass off?” Ballard said. “You take that money and invest it and you get more money in return without having to be here seven days a week.” 

Ballard and his wife and children moved to Bow in the early 1970s from Manchester, where he was a printer at the Union Leader for 17 years.

Tired of working long night shifts in the newspaper business, Ballard was in search of a trade that would allow him more time spent with his family.

Ballard bought the building in 1980, where there was already an ice cream stand called “Cranberry Scoop.” He used the property to create a costume and balloon store, which closed in 2010, along with his famous ice cream shop.

Ballard’s departure will not be an easy one. His business is a neighborhood institution in the South End of Concord, and he will be sorely missed by many life-long customers, many of whom took to commenting on Ballard’s Facebook post on Aug. 26 announcing the shop’s closing.

“Thank you for your patronage for so many years,” the Ballards wrote. “And thanks to our amazing employees for their dedication and service to our terrific customers. They are indeed just like family and always will be!”




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