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Sandy's Chill Spot Ice Cream and Seafood Restaurant - VisitingNewEngland small business partnership

Cream of the Crop: Sandy's Chill Spot Ice Cream and Seafood Restaurant in Bellingham, Mass.

How this humble little seasonal ice cream stand has became one of the the most "chill" places for ice cream and comfort foods in the southwestern fringe of Metro Boston

Classic sundae from Sandy's Chill Spot Ice Cream in Bellingham, Mass.
Specialty sundae: Death By Chocolate ice cream with
Reese's Pieces, hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry on top.

Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 6/30/2020.

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Driving down Pulaski Blvd. in Bellingham, Mass. will never be mistaken for rush hour in the big city.

At times of the day, vehicles sparsely populate the long and winding road. Crickets saturate the air at twilight, metaphorically suggesting there's not a lot to do here compared to the more densely populated Woonsocket, R.I. about 10 minutes away. Families interact in their yards or are out for a walk in the pleasant neighborhoods. The occasional business like a lumber yard or a car repair shop take on the role of an abridged business district. The air feels fresher and the unassuming vibe almost feels like the small town ways of Upstate New York rather than a Boston or Providence suburb.

All of a sudden, however, a high concentration of cars and people can be seen in the short distance. Upon closer inspection, that sign of life gets some delightful clarity: There's a classic ice cream stand here that virtually serves as a virtual magnet drawing in many locals driving the Boulevard.

Waiting for ice cream at Sandy's Chill Spot Ice Cream and Seafood Restaurant in Bellingham, Mass.
Waiting for ice cream at Sandy's.

Like a rite of passage into the summer, Sandy's Chill Spot Ice Cream and Seafood Restaurant just feels so right as a classic ice cream stand. Those outside the area, most likely, do not know about Sandy's but should.  This special small business seems to hit the sweet spot, literally and figuratively, with an astonishing variety of ice cream choices and generous portions of cool treats and comfort foods at surprisingly low prices. Locally-made "hormone and antibiotic free”, hand-scooped and soft-serve ice cream and a full grill menu highlight this delightful meeting point to satisfy comfort food and sweet tooth cravings (more on that in detail shortly).

Comfort foods at Sandy's in Bellingham, MA.
Eye catching sign at Sandy's.

Sandy's relies on more of an old school, laid back setting where people and ice cream connect directly without obstructions like, say, arcade games, mini golf or overly-expensive nitrogen-churned artisanal scoops. Well, almost. The only obstruction would be the huge ice cream barriers that separate the ice cream stand from the parking lot. They look almost good enough to eat...

Ice cream barrier that separates ordering area from parking lot at Sandy's Chill Spot in Bellingham, Mass.
Colorful ice cream barriers can be seen from far away.

At the forefront of Sandy's, co-owner Nancy Pinheiro sets a tone of authenticity, hard work ethic and a drive to succeed. She also has fun at work getting to know her customers and staff on a personal level and with a heaping portion of kindness and civility as the main course. That staff -- largely comprised of well-trained, articulate and personable high school and college kids -- often refers to Nancy as  their "working mom."

"We are like family here," said Nancy. "It's a nice place to work."

Kyriana Smith couldn't agree more.

"I worked there from when I was 16 and it was the best job ever," said Kyriana. "They are wonderful people."

Nancy Pinheiro, co-cowner of Sandy's Chill Spot in Bellingham, Mass.
Nancy Pinheiro.

Nancy's commute often starts at 6:30 a.m. but it's a short one as she and boyfriend Steve Tutujian live at the same address as the business. This scenario reveals a far distant situation from Nancy's paralegal background and Steve's days as an IT professional, both in the Boston area.

The constant needs for supplies, keeping the business spotlessly clean, buying seafood locally, going to the bank, working the kitchen, taking orders at the window and managing the staff often results in Nancy's days extending to 10 or 11 p.m.

"Some people sit in their office and crunch numbers but I am at the window, cooking, cleaning, working with my kids," said Nancy. "We're all in this together."

Steve -- who in addition to possessing the IT background -- has significant experience in the food and convenience store industries. He takes care of the much of the behind-the-scenes business including computer and marketing responsibilities.

Together, Nancy and Steve have seen their business grow tremendously, first starting in 2003-2004 in Blackstone, Mass. as a tiny ice cream stand and part-time summer hobby named after Nancy's dog.

"Nancy and I decided to give it a shot -- our start up budget was basically $2,700," said Steve. "It was a eight-foot by 24-foot trailer with no bathroom or a place to sit . We never had money to advertise during the 14 to 15 years in Blackstone. I only ran a three week ad in the (local) paper, that's it. We built it the hard way through word of mouth and passing out fliers."

Steve and Nancy, however, wanted more than just one scoop of the American Dream. They ultimately envisioned going far beyond owning a vanilla business.

"Growing up, I watched my grandfather run his business which was located in the same building as his house," said Steve. "I always wanted to own my own house with the business on site. We worked hard and saved and finally in 2010 we purchased the home in Bellingham which is a dream come true. That year, I decided to give the business to Nancy and continue working my IT business and property management. It took us two years to do repairs and we opened for business in Bellingham in 2012. When people visit Sandy’s, they are actually visiting our home so we treat them as so. They are not just visiting a business." 

Now they are seeing the fruits of their labor starting to pay off in the form of an American Dream success story. With more ice cream flavors,  introducing a food menu and seeing the "build it and they will come" phrase turn into a reality, Steve and Nancy see locals making it their "go to" place for the foods and desserts that America loves best.

Strawberry Hurricane with soft serve twist ice cream from Sandy's Chill Spot Ice Cream and Seafood Restaurant in Bellingham, Mass.

Strawberry Hurricane sundae with strawberries and layers of soft serve twist ice cream and vanilla wafers.

"My family goes there ALL the time!" said Dale Arnold, host of NHL Boston Bruins games on NESN, co-host of Dale and Keefe on WEEI radio Boston and author of "If These Walls Could Talk: Boston Bruins."

Eating under the tent at Sandy's Chill Spot Ice Cream and Seafood Restaurant in Bellingham, Mass.
Picnic area.

"My favorite ice cream place!" said Lisa Whalen. "They're always friendly and quite generous, you certainly get your money's worth. Want a special order, they take that order with a smile and no problem. Their service is consistent, it's always good always friendly and the ice cream is always smooth and delicious."

Ordering At The Window, Anticipating The Yumminess

Banana split sundae from Sandy's Chill Spot in Bellingham, Mass.
Banana split from Sandy's. Photo credit: Sandy's Chill Spot.

Many ice cream stands serve an impressive variety of hard and soft serve ice cream but after that, there's often a quick drop off in offerings. Sandy's, on the other hand, takes that hard and soft serve menu to a completely different level with one of the most comprehensive menus of its genre in eastern Massachusetts. And with huge servings and great value for the money...

Huge ice cream cones from Sandy's Chill Spot in Bellingham, Mass.
Enough ice cream for the day. Photo credit: Sandy's Ice Cream.

Let's take a look at what a customer would first see and then what follows starting with the order windows...

Sandy's Chill Spot in Bellingham, Mass.
Ordering ice cream at the window.

The hard ice cream menu does cover all the basics and far beyond with many creative offerings included...

Ice cfrfeam menu at Sandy's Chill Spot in Bellingham, Mass.
Ice cream menu.

The traditional and flavored soft serve ice cream selections, along with sherbet and Dole Whip fat-free frozen yogurt, suggest the end of the ice cream menu will not be happening any time soon...

Soft serve ice cream selections at Sandy's Chill Spot Ice Cream and Seafood Restaurant in Bellingham, Mass.
The many soft serve ice cream offerings.

That soft serve menu is not exactly soft. Sandy's also serves more than 80 flavors of vegan-friendly Froconut soft-serve, coconut-flavored frozen gelato. It's 100 percent dairy and lactose-free with no refined sugar, soy or gluten.

Graduating to the next step in this wonderland of ice cream splendor, you could order a different sundae every day day of the week at Sandy's and then some...

Sundaes selection at Sandy's Chill Spot in Bellingham, Mass.
Sundaes galore at Sandy's Chill Spot.

Hurricane sundaes create the perfect storm with a base of soft serve and layers of candies, fruit, hot fudge, peanut butter sauce (depending on what you order) and a topping of whipped cream...

Hurricanes from Sandy's Chill Spot in Bellingham, Mass.
Hurricanes lend the typical sundae a twist.

Customer also have the chance to enjoy a little breakfast at Sandy's in the form of cereal-based ice cream concoctions. The Brady Bunch never had it this good...

Breakast-based ice cream at Sandy's Chill Spot in Bellingham, Mass.
Cereal mixed with ice cream, a winning combination.

Sandy's also serves frappes and floats, slushies and Italian ice, as well as offering cone dips, waffle cones and bowls for any of its ice cream flavors...

Frappes and floats menu from Sandy's Chill Spot Ice Cream and Seafood Restaurant in Bellingham, Mass.
Variety is clearly the spice of life at Sandy's.

Pet owners can also rejoice: Sandy's offers treats for the faithful, four-legged visitors!

Treats for pets at Sandy's Chill Spot in Bellingham, Mass.
Something for pets, too.

In addition to the locally homemade ice cream served at Sandy's, Nancy also makes her own flavors including Caramel Crunch -- a caramel base flavored ice cream with Heath candy pieces and butterscotch swirl. Dazed and Confused is a vanilla-based ice cream with cookie dough, brownie chunks, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Reese's Pieces toppings.

A seasonal fall favorite created by Nancy: Carrot Cake with vanilla bean ice cream, carrot cake, cream cheese frosting and a vanilla base swirl with chunks of carrot cake. Boston Cream Pie is the other flavor featured in the fall. This unique ice cream possesses a custard ice cream base with pieces of Boston cream pie and a chocolate frosting swirl. The M&M ice cream offers M&M flavored ice cream with M&M candy in it and a chocolate swirl.

Sandy's also makes its own Italian ice, water ice , sorbet, frosty paws and more.

One of the great hidden treasures at Sandy's: the stuffed ice with a mix of soft serve ice cream and Italian ice. It's absolutely delicious the way the creamy soft serve combines with flavorful ice cream. Here is the mango stuffed Italian ice...

Stuffed Italian ice with soft serve ice cream and mango ice from Sandy's Chill's Spot in Bellingham, Mass.
Stuffed Italian Ice

Meals to Go With Your Ice Cream

Comfort foods menue at Sandy'

Sandy's also offers customers the chance to eat a meal before dessert with its full grill menu including hot dogs, cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, grilled cheese, onion rings and fries.

Hot dogs from Sandy's Chill Spot Ice Cream and Seafood Restaurant, Bellingham, Mass.
Hot dogs from Sandy's.
Photo source: Sandy's Facebook page.

Nancy and Steve wisely buy most of their seafood locally. After all, this is New England, the capital of great seafood! On Fridays, Sandy's offer a fish and chips plate, fried belly clam platter, clam cakes and New England white clam chowder. And on any day of the week, selections like the Seafood Sampler rival the best of fried seafood in New England with calamari, shrimp and clam strips but at a much cheaper price ($11.73, at this writing)...

Sandy's Sampler ffried seafood from Sandy's Chill Spot in Bellingham, Mass.
Seafood sampler.

That Friday special fish and chips is such a big hit, they are often sold out early in the day.

"The fish and chips almost always sell out by 2," said Nancy.

Fish and chips from Sandy's Chill Spot Ice Cream and Seafood Restaurant, Bellingham, Mass.
Fish and chips from Sandy's. Photo source: Sandy's Facebook page.

The fish and chips were inspired by a family friend.

"My father had this family friend who owned a deli in East Providence," said Nancy, a Pawtucket, R.I. native. "We knew his fish and chips were really good. I didn't even like fish and chips but ate his and really liked it.
He made them for 40 years and I followed up on the way he made them. Delicious!"

While Nancy doesn't have a background in cooking, her love for creating food eventually evolved.

"Growing up, I was never involved with cooking with my mom," said Nancy. "I was more interested in dad stuff like cars, boats, things in the garage. Mom always said I liked 'kitchen stuff' but I really didn't get into it until going to college and having my own apartment."

Nancy worked hard to excel in the profession with help from Steve (and vice versa) and sticking to uncomplicated, common sense styles of cooking.

"I try to make food the way I would want to eat," said Nancy. "Keep it simple. Less is more."

No Good Ice Cream Deed Ever Goes Unnoticed

One of the many awards that Sandy's Chill Spot in Bellingham, Mass. has earned.
Nancy and Steve will talk first about the love they have for their business, the customers and the ice cream and food but it should also be known that the local media has repeatedly recognized Sandy's as a "best of" destination. Good small business practices should never go unnoticed so check out the accolades Sandy's has received, to date...

2017 Voted #1 for ice cream and seafood in Bellingham, Wicked Local Readers Choice Award
2017 Silver regional favorite for ice cream ( 15 towns),
Wicked Local Readers Choice Award
2018 Voted #1 for ice cream and seafood in Bellingham,
Wicked Local Readers Choice Award
2018 Gold regional favorite for ice cream ( 15 towns),
Wicked Local Readers Choice Award
2019 Voted #1 for ice cream and seafood in Bellingham, Wicked Local Readers Choice Award
2019 Bronze regional favorite for ice cream ( 15 towns), Wicked Local Readers Choice Award
2019 Restaurant Guru Best in the City Fast Food
2019- 2020 Best of Bellingham Award, by the Bellingham Award Program
2019 Yelp Award People Love Us on Yelp Award

Concluding Thoughts

Waffle cone sundae from Sandy's Chill Spot Ice Crfeam and Seafood Restaurant, Bellingham, Mass.
Waffle cone sundae from Sandy's. Photo source: Sandy's Instagram page.

The initial culture shock of Steve and Nancy moving from the big city and its career opportunities to the peace, quiet and relative solitude of a semi-rural suburb just goes to show that taking chances and following the heart can pay off in meaningful ways. They could have opted for IT and paralegal careers with potential for big salaries. Instead, Steve and Nancy chose a simpler life and chance to connect with a close-knit community through their own business.

The lines form at Sandy's Chill Spot Ice Cream and Seafood in Bellingham, Mass.
Lines form at the order window. Photo credit: Sandy's Chill Spot.

It's not just about the ice cream and comfort foods at Sandy's. Nancy and Steve truly care about peoples' happiness and fostering a civil, healthy atmosphere. On the happy side: Around Halloween, Sandy's gives away free ice cream a few days before closing for the season. It is Steve and Nancy's show of gratitude for customer support for the seasonal business. On the civil, healthy side: Steve and Nancy put up a reminder sign for parents to be mindful of their kids behavior, as well as setting up cleaning stations for people to use after sitting at the picnic tables -- a vital necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, or any other time for that matter. Sandy's is also in complete compliance with state and federal business guidelines regarding the pandemic.

"We ran our business one way for 15 years and had to change everything in one month," said Nancy, in regards to the Coronavirus changing life as we once knew it. "We were able to, however, and things are working out fine!"

A friendly reminder at Sandy's Chill Spot in Bellingham, Mass.
A friendly reminder.

Taking a cue from America's obsession with ice cream as the great unifier, Sandy's today thrives as a happy place for small business owners, their staff and customers. It just goes to show that the main road driven to arrive at initial career dreams can lead to back roads that yield the greatest satisfaction. Pulaski Blvd. is the back road that twisted and turned for many years before Steve and Nancy found their new home, career niche and blessed lives. The folks in the Bellingham area are clearly the beneficiaries and with ice cream to sweeten the scenario that much more.

"Sandy’s Chill Spot is always a favorite during the summertime!" said Tim Collalto. "Great food, tons of options for comfort foods, and delicious ice cream. Customer service has never disappointed!"

S'mores Hurricane from Sandy's Chill Spot Ice Cream and Seafood Restaurant in Bellingham, Mass.
 S'mores Hurricane with twist soft serve ice cream.

Kara Krup is also a strong believer in Sandy's Chill Spot.

"Sandy's has exceptional service, a vast array of ice cream options and are conscientious of patrons with allergies," said Kara. "As a mom of a child with a severe peanut allergy, I am grateful we have a place to go that takes the precautionary measures to make my daughter feel safe and included!"

Nancy summarizes the Sandy's Chill Spot experience in a simple but powerfully stated way.

"Good food, good ice cream, good customer service -- that's enough to have people come back," said Nancy.  "I feel good about what we accomplished and that we can make so many people happy."

Sandy's Chill Spot Ice Cream & Seafood Restaurant is located at 800 Pulaski Blvd. in Bellingham, MA. Tel. 508-348-9478.

Web site: (includes placing orders online options)
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