Ice cream provided his twins respite in COVID. So this dad opened an ice cream shop in Ridgefield

RIDGEFIELD — When his twin daughters became frustrated after a virtual school day, Eric Barrow quelled their troubles with a scoop of ice cream.

Last year, the Greenwich family enjoyed going out for ice cream more than ever because it offered a lick of respite amid the coronavirus pandemic. This experience inspired Barrow to become a franchisee for Gofer Ice Cream, which has seven locations in lower Fairfield County.

Gofer’s eighth location opened in Ridgefield on Oct. 15, and will hold a grand opening this weekend. Residents with a sweet tooth can sample a “diverse menu” of frozen goodies, including hand-dipped and soft-serve ice cream, plant-based ice cream, Italian ices, smoothies, ice cream cakes and more, Barrow said.

When selecting a location for his store, Barrow envisioned a neighborhood spot that would garner a good amount of foot traffic. To this, Gofer’s CEO and Founder Jay Ragusa said, “Have you checked out Ridgefield?” A vacant storefront on Main Street presented the perfect opportunity.

“We made the decision to come to Ridgefield because of how much there is to offer,” Barrow said. “We spoke to other business owners on Main Street, and they all said exactly what we thought: that we would do great here.”

Gofer announced in March that the Ridgefield location was expected to open earlier this summer, but the opening was delayed due to a “host of issues,” Barrow said. Some appliances he had ordered, including freezers and display cabinets, were discontinued or scheduled to arrive later than expected.

“It was certainly a challenge, but when we did open (it was) fantastic,” Barrow recalled. “The response has been outstanding.”

Gofer’s opening weekend coincided with the town’s Fall in Love with Ridgefield festival, which enjoyed “beautiful weather” in the low 70s, Barrow said.

The store’s inviting interior features blue and yellow walls, a red and white striped awning and countertop stools. It’s equipped to handle small gatherings and birthday parties. In addition to counter service, Gofer offers online ordering and delivery, as well as catering options.

Barrow’s staff includes a lot of teens from Ridgefield and John Jay high schools. He acknowledged that while the fall and winter isn’t peak ice cream season, he expects to be “running on all cylinders” come spring.

This terminology is derived from Barrow’s nearly 30-year career as a sports journalist, which began following a “bizarre circumstance” while he was teaching English in Japan, he said.

In 1993, the Tokyo Dome hosted a Big Ten game pitting Michigan State against Wisconsin, Barrow’s alma mater. He attended a dinner afterwards with a bunch of “media folks” who discussed the facets of the industry. It was during this conversation that Barrow changed the focus of his career.

In 2016, Barrow was named sports editor of the New York Daily News. Two years later, the paper laid off two thirds of his staff, reducing the department from 33 employees to nine. Barrow was laid off five months later.

“The industry is so transient due to the internet and social media that I thought it was time for a change, to do something I have more control over,” he said. “I didn’t want to miss out on (my daughters) growing up, but with something like this, when they get old enough, they can work behind the counter with me.”

For now, Barrow’s 9-year-old daughters contribute by taste-testing chocolate soft serve and drawing cartoons on the whiteboard in the back. This familial feeling is something he enjoys most about owning a business in Ridgefield, he said.

“I love to see folks here, enjoying the scene and being a part of the store,” he added, “and if you want to have a conversation with the owner over last night’s Knicks game, you’ve come to the right place.”

Gofer Ice Cream is at 407 Main St. in Ridgefield.