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Schoolhouse Ice Cream and Yogurt, Burlington, Mass: A Happy Place Serving Some of the Best Ice Cream in Massachusetts


S'mores ice cream cone from Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington, Massachusetts.
S'Mores ice cream cone from Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington. Photo credit: Schoolhouse Ice Cream Instagram page.

Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 2/18/2019.

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For you ice cream lovers out there, here's a scoop: Schoolhouse Ice Cream & Yogurt in Burlington, Mass., ranks among the best ice cream places in Massachusetts.

Rob and Betty Stanley have owned the business for more than 15 years and created a one-of-a-kind destination that is more than just about the ice cream. While that delicious, thick and flavorful ice cream remains the main draw with its rich 16 percent butterfat content and super premium ingredients, Schoolhouse Ice Cream draws locals in, ultimately, for the overall fun, family-friendly experience.

Small in size but with a big heart always in place, Schoolhouse Ice Cream looks like one of those old-fashioned ice cream parlors that you thought was gone forever. The tile floor, red booths, colorful handwritten chalkboard menu at the order-at-the-counter area, ceiling fans and a huge retro gumball machine evoke a much-needed, heartwarming nostalgic atmosphere that offers a welcoming sense of place and community.
There's even a wonderful outdoor patio that gets populated very quickly during the summer (photo below during off hours).

Schoolhouse Ice Cream, Burlington, Massachusetts
Schoolhouse Ice Cream. Photo credit: Schoolhouse Ice Cream Facebook fan page.

Kids love to write on the blank chalkboard before or after their ice creams -- right next to the wide screen television that often plays kids movies and shows, as well as local sports.

"The chalkboard and TV have been key," said Rob, wearing a Boston Red Sox cap. "Once in here, there can be waits so the TV and writing on the chalkboard buy some time in a good way."


Schoolhouse Ice Cream and Yogurt in Burlington, Massachusetts.
The colorful inside of Schoolhouse Ice Cream.

Locals have responded: Up to 25-minute waits with lines forming out the door during peak season are not uncommon. Even on a New England winter day, the regular crowds shuffle in for a cool treat on a frigid day. That's the New England way, though. People love their ice cream no matter what time of year and Schoolhouse Ice Cream delivers big-time as a year-round operation.

"The community has embraced us," said Rob. "We make ice cream the right way, right here. Being an owner, you have a one-on-one relationship with the customers. They like seeing the owners. Over time, you see these little kids coming here with their parents and before you know it, they are all grown up with deeper voices and going to college. I'm only 44 and feel old with these kids growing up so fast, but feel great at the same time owning this business!"

Some people come here two to three times a week. Those in the community also like Schoolhouse as a go-to place to celebrate birthday, office and sports team parties through its catering services.

"We go there every Friday night," said Barbara Thompson, a Burlington resident. "It’s a family ritual we got into with our girls. It gives everyone something to look forward to. It’s such a homey feeling when you step inside. There’s always a movie playing that the kids immediately start watching. The interesting facts on the side wall are very fun, too. The ice cream is great and so is the hot fudge! We also order ice cream cakes for birthdays, too. You can choose the flavors you want and the cookie crunch and hot fudge included is delicious! We really love Schoolhouse and go there all year long. I also love to get gift cards for gifts because, who doesn’t like ice cream!?"

The Humble Beginnings

Rob Stanley, owner of Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington, Mass., with employees.
Schoolhouse Ice Cream owner Rob Stanley with staff. Photo credit: Schoolhouse Ice Cream Facebook fan page.

Rob, a Wentworth Institute of Technology (Boston, Mass.) graduate, worked in the construction industry. Betty, a U.S. Marine Corps vet, was employed in the banking industry. Both wanted new careers.

"Too many bad days," said Rob, of his previous career. "I reached a point where I never wanted to work for someone else again."

Rob and Betty, who both grew up in neighboring Bedford, looked around for new career beginnings. Rob's mom, Sue, had found great success opening Schoolhouse Ice Cream with Rob's stepfather, Jack, many years ago in Harwich, Mass. (the Cape Cod business still thrives, to this very day). Rob and Betty soon followed Sue and Jack's business template.

"We saw this place," said Rob, of the Burlington location that housed two former ice cream businesses. "It was run down, but we got a good vibe. It was a big chance, though. If it didn't work out, however, we knew we'd be in huge debt. By the end of the first summer, though, we knew we'd be OK. As mentioned, the town really embraced us."

Rob didn't ask for much help from his mom on the ice cream shop because that's when he was starting his own career 100 miles away. He did talk with three local ice cream owners who offered advice, however.

"I was working construction at that time and she was on Cape Cod, so there wasn't time," said Rob. "Three local (ice cream) owners helped out. After year five, we were totally confident in our abilities. Success happened fairly quickly with crowds, but there was a big learning curve in creating great ice cream."

Some of the Best Ice Cream in Massachusetts

Peanut Butter Madness from Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington, Mass.
Peanut Butter Madness ice cream cone. Photo credit: Schoolhouse Ice Cream Facebook fan page.

Very few places actually make their own ice cream in-house. When they do, it's not even a guarantee for deliciousness. While the 16 percent butterfat content is an important element to creating super premium quality ice cream, the sourcing and proper freezing process also stand as vitally important steps. The most important element, however, is making the ice cream with love. Schoolhouse Ice Cream does just that, and then some.

"I'd say four out of 10 places make their own ice cream," said Rob. "It is sad when places don't make their own ice cream. We are New England and this is a region that prides itself on making things homemade."

Rob also avoids pumping air into the ice cream, an unfortunate popular industry standard that impedes the true taste. Once the ice cream comes out of the machine at Schoolhouse, it is cured for 24 hours in a deep freeze. The ice cream comes out rock hard and placed in a flip top freezer for about 12 hours to become scoopable Then, the ice cream is brought out to containers at the order counter for everyone to enjoy. During the busiest times, Rob makes ice cream fresh every day and during off season, at least two or three times a week.

"Every ingredient is hand-picked," said Rob. "The nuts come from a nut guy, the cocoa from a cocoa guy. We don't take short cuts."

One of the standout flavors: Over the Rainbow with lemon flavor, white chocolate chips and raspberry swirl. Dense in flavor but not too overwhelming, Over the Rainbow tastes unlike any other ice cream flavor in the best sense. The parts add up to the sum and vice versa -- that is, you can taste each individual flavor, but the combination synergistically also adding up to something truly delicious.

Over the rainbow ice cream with lemon, white chocolate chips and raspberry swirl from Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington, Mass.
Over the Rainbow ice cream flavor from Schoolhouse Ice Cream.

Schoolhouse ice cream offers up to 48 flavors, including old standbys like chocolate, vanilla strawberry and coffee, as well as innovative choices like Salted Caramel Pretzel, Irish Whiskey Coffee, and Kahlua Krunch. The S'mores ice cream (pictured at the top of this page) is a real winner, too, with marshmallow flavored ice cream, graham cracker pieces and large chocolate chips. Another gem; the Peanut Butter Madness (pictured above in this section of the story) with a fudge swirl, cookie crunch and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

The sundaes are pretty, special too. Schoolhouse makes them the old-fashioned way without any of the newfangled "gourmet" obstructions that take away the tradition of this revered form of ice cream.

Hot fudge ice cream from Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington, Mass.
Hot fudge sundae from Schoolhouse Ice Cream.
Photo credit: Schoolhouse Ice Cream Instagram page.

If super hungry for that super premium ice cream, however, Schoolhouse offers the Sundae Bucket Challenge. This gargantuan serving includes 10 scoops, 10 toppings, four bananas, an entire can of whipped cream and just one spoon. Only in 10 win the challenge among family and friends giving it a try.

The sundae challenge atSchoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington, Mass.
The Sundae Bucket Challenge at Schoolhouse Ice Cream.

Schoolhouse has also prioritized making ice cream cakes as part of their growing catering business. Through trial and error, Rob and Betty have taken the cakes to an art form that result in something superior to the supermarket brands and chain versions.

Oreo ice cream cake from Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington, Mass.
Oreo ice cream cake from Schoolhouse Ice Cream.
Photo credit: Schoolhouse Ice Cream Facebook fan page.

"We wanted to expand our ice cream cake menu," said Rob. "Customers love them. Someone came from Braintree (30 miles away) with a cooler to bring back home!"

The waffle cones also look good enough to eat on their own...

Homemade waffle cones from Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington MA
Waffle cones from Schoolhouse Ice Cream.
Photo credit: Schoolhouse Ice Cream Facebook fan page.

Schoolhouse also serves hard frozen yogurt and soft serve ice cream, the latter which Rob has tinkered with to create a thicker, more flavorful taste.

Soft serve ice cream from Schoolhouse Ice Cream, Burlington, Massachusetts.
Soft serve ice cream from Schoolhouse Ice Cream.
Photo credit: Schoolhouse Ice Cream Instagram page.

"You won't find any of that thin-tasting soft serve here," said Rob.

Surprise, Schoolhouse Serves Excellent Food, Too!

Big, delicious sandwich from Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington, Mass.. Photo credit: Schoolhouse Ice Cream Instagram page. Photo
credit: Schoolhouse Ice Cream Facebook fan page.
Big, delicious sandwich from Schoolhouse Ice Cream. Photo credit: Schoolhouse Ice Cream Instagram page. Photo credit: Schoolhouse Ice Cream Facebook fan page.

Ever notice how many ice cream restaurants leave the customer cold when it comes to the food part? It's almost like the food is an afterthought to the ice cream.

Not so at Schoolhouse Ice Cream. Rob and Betty walk the fine line of avoiding underwhelming offerings, while knowing that "overstuffed" servings can be messy and filled with weird combinations of ingredients.

"It's simple food," said Rob. "Like grilled cheese, tuna melts. We make it the way you want it and the way we would want our sandwiches when eating out. People like lunches and to relax over something tasty and simple.

Employee Ally Rosburg's overheard that conversation and added, "No one wants cold toast!"

"Or brown lettuce!" added Rob, with a smile. "And this isn't the place for stuff like, I don't know, flax oil bread. We have the best cold cuts and bread here."

The hot turkey sandwich is one of Schoolhouse's best lunches. Made with plenty of turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce, Schoolhouse does a better version than some restaurants that think they're really good.

Hot turkey sandwich from Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington, Mass.
Hot turkey sandwich from Schoolhouse Ice Cream.

Classic sandwiches like turkey, ham, roast beef and tuna or chicken salads serve as tasty precursors to the ice cream, or can suffice as standalones. Schoolhouse also offers a veggie melt, turkey club, BLT, and various grilled cheese sandwiches (yum, highly recommended!). The soups, chowders, stews, and chili are also are homemade and quite popular on their own, or as as part of a soup/sandwich combo meal. An added bonus: you can add chips, soda and a cup of ice cream to any sandwich for $2.00.

Tuna Melt, fish chowder and ice cream from Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington, Mass.

Tuna melt, fish chowder and ice cream from Schoolhouse Ice Cream. Photo credit: Schoolhouse Ice Cream Instagram page.

"They have good food," said Mindy Frankel Meier, a Burlington resident. "Best club sandwich I’ve ever had and I can get it in a 1/2 portion so there’s no waste. The grilled cheese is my son’s favorite. They have combos that come with the ice cream. The Burlington Heath Bar Crunch is super yummy. But the best thing about the place is the owner guy. He’s always so nice, has a big smile on his face and is very chill. It’s very much a family place, but you see every kind of person -- young kids, teenagers and senior citizens all enjoying a good meal or ice cream all year round. They have a chalk board for the kids to use and the owner turns on Nick Jr. when my kids (boys, two and four-years old) come in which keeps them occupied. We try to get there at least twice a month, if possible. I wish I could go every week."

Fun Atmosphere

Green Monster ice cream, Red Sox schedule on the chalkboard at Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington, Mass.
Red Sox theme: Green Monster Ice Cream cone, baseball schedule in the background. Photo credit: Schoolhouse Ice Cream Instagram page.

Rob is a huge sports fan and posts the Red Sox schedule on one of the chalkboards.

Next to the Sox schedule is a "Tidbits of Information" section with little-known facts that serve as great conversation starters among customers. Some examples: "A shrimp's heart is in his head." "Only a quarter of the Sahara Desert is sandy." "Armadillo shells are bulletproof." "One cloud can weigh more than 1 million pounds."

Meaningful signs saturate the walls like "Where friends meet, hearts warm," "To teach is to love," Simplify your life" and "Cherish yesterday*Dream tomorrow*Live Today." The positive messages just add to the cheery surroundings.

Welcoming sign at Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington, Vt.
Welcoming sign at Schoolhouse Ice Cream.
Photo credit: Schoolhouse Ice Cream Facebook fan page.

"We try to make the whole experience a happy one," said Rob. "Why be any other way?"

Conclusion

Schoolhouse Ice Cream has flourished as a "best of" local business for many years, but those outside the area should seek it out, too, when looking for true homemade ice cream. That ice cream approaches the quality of local legendary places like Kimball Farm in Westford, Mass., Hayward's Ice Cream in Nashua, N.H. and Crescent Ridge Dairy Bar in Sharon, Mass. -- the latter once named by National Geographic as one of the best ice cream places in the world. Additionally, Schoolhouse's year-round status as an indoor ice cream establishment (with a good heating system) makes for a convenient choice for those who don't want to wait for seasonal ice cream places to open.

Mocha chip from Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington, Mass.
Mocha chip from Schoolhouse Ice Cream. Photo credit: Schoolhouse Ice Cream Instagram page.

Rob likes the business route he and Betty have taken by putting their own small business stamp on it.

"You don't get anything special at a chain," said Rob. "There's no love in it. This place does not scream corporate. Just look at it. Those fans on the ceiling remind us of the fans we liked when on vacation. There's the chalkboard for kids to write on and there's the TV playing movies or sports. We get to know the customers and they get to know us while enjoying some really good ice cream."

Dining room at Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington, Mass.
Cheery surroundings at Schoolhouse Ice Cream.

Something else is very important to Rob and Betty, too: family life.

"We have been together for 18 years and married for 8, and have a five and four-year old," said Rob. "I want to see my kids, too. You know, I saw these kids growing up so quickly (at Schoolhouse) and don't want that to happening with our kids where the time goes by so fast. We want that balance."

That Rob and Betty had virtually no ice cream or restaurant background, but worked so hard to make something special is also part of the appeal at Schoolhouse. It's like the locals love Rob and Betty as much as the ice cream.  They are friendly neighbors who also happen to offer delicious offerings, as well as making it a point to give back to the charity of one's choice in the community.


Ultimately, the small business journey has resulted in a huge accomplishment -- that is, virtually starting with nothing and ultimately schooling most other ice cream places on how to run a business. They do so with a business model steeped in love and passion for the business, while making ice cream that clearly ranks among the best this writer experienced in Massachusetts.

Schoolhouse Ice Cream is definitely cream of the crop!

Schoolhouse Ice Cream is located at 216 Cambridge St., Burlington, MA, 01803. Web site: http://schoolhouseicecream.com. Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/Schoolhouse-Ice-Cream-Yogurt. Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/schoolhouse_icecream


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Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington, Mass., is a hidden gem ice cream parlor that ranks right up there with offering the best ice cream cream in Massachusetts.


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