A cool spot for sweet treats, the Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor is planning to relocate sometime next year and is eyeing a now vacant storefront just a few doors west of its current Madison Street location.
Husband and wife owners Matt and Connie Brown have been contemplating a move for several months, according to Matt Brown, and have reached a handshake agreement to move into the former movie theater at 7347 Madison St. Though no plans have been made formal, Connie Brown said they intend to re-open in May for the coming summer.
“We’re hoping to recreate some of the charm of the old theater,” Matt Brown said.
The Browns opened their ice cream shop in 2004 and restored a small space at 7314 Madison St. into a cozy business with dark wood paneling and a painted tin ceiling. The old-time atmosphere at Brown Cow is part of the draw, said Matt Brown, but it would be difficult to transfer that same feeling.
“I think we’re going to try and stay true to the history of that building,” Brown said.
The long closed Lil Theater operated a single screen for a capacity crowd of about 500 during its heyday between the 1910s and 1940s, according to cinematreasures.org. For the last year, owner Jerry Vainisi has used the theater for storage while looking for an appropriate tenant. Vainisi is the president of the Forest Park National Bank and Trust, located across the street from the theater building.
“I could have sold or rented the building several times during the past year it has been vacant,” Vainisi said in an e-mail. “I was only willing to have a business in there that I felt would benefit Madison Street. Since my grandchildren may already rank among Brown Cow’s best customers I know it will be the kind a place we all desire.”
The likely agreement between Vainisi and the Brown Cow will be a one-year lease agreement that gives the business owners the option of purchasing the property, said Vainisi.
“I like Matt and Connie,” Vainisi said. “They are good people, good for the street, and I am more than happy to work with them to see the agreement reach fruition.”
In searching for a new home for their business, Brown said he and his wife wanted to remain on Madison Street. Though the seating capacity at the two locations is roughly the same, the floor plan at the old movie theater gives the couple space for more convenient storage and will allow them to better accommodate birthday parties and other large gatherings. And after seeing the line of customers trail out the door during the summer months, Brown said he’s looking forward to having two service lines at the new location.
“We kind of outgrew our current space,” Matt Brown said. “I can’t really expand our current space.”
Meanwhile, Brian Sullivan, owner of 7314 Madison St., said he has shown the Brown Cow storefront to several prospective tenants. Most likely, said Sullivan, he is looking for a retailer to come in after the ice cream parlor. The building’s tenants also include an acupuncture studio and residential apartment on the second floor.
Sullivan purchased the property a little more than a year ago in November of 2006, and said he is willing to sell.
“If somebody wants to make it a purchase, we’re not against it and would be more than happy to discuss it,” Sullivan said.