On Memorial Day weekend, a Bristol Borough business owner brought customers as close as he could to the South Jersey beaches.
“It’s like being down the shore,” Bernie D’Ascendis said. “I wanted to create that kind of atmosphere.”
He’s the owner of Let’s Go To The Hop, a throwback ice cream and sandwich shop. D’Ascendis said Memorial Day was his busiest day yet, though he just had his grand opening on May 6.
D’Ascendis decorated The Hop with memorabilia from the 1950s and ‘60s. A pair of vintage roller skates dangle under a counter, a soda advertisement with Betty Boop hangs beneath the awning, patriotic images are posted throughout. D’Ascendis added some extra flare to complete The Hop’s retro style.
“It’s a doo-wop type of set-up. I have the music playing all the time,” he said. “We have our own little festive party out here every night.”
During those get-togethers, patrons might see a disco ball glowing through the street, people posing for photos with the mannequin, “Jimmy the Chef” outside, or children playing with balloon swords made by the owner himself. D’Ascendis has a long history in the food and entertainment industries.
He served in the U.S. Navy as a steward and went to tech school for baking. He’s been a balloon artist for children’s birthday parties for the better part of four decades. He also used to be a french fry and snow cone vendor at one-day events in the area. All this apart from full-time jobs with Coca-Cola and the United States Postal Service.
“I was a hustler,” he laughed. “I was chomping at the bit to get back in the business.”
After retirement in 2012, D’Ascendis was looking to buy a tavern in the Bristol Borough area, but couldn’t find one nearby. When the opportunity arose to purchase the ice cream shop, formerly called Pinky’s Corner, the lifelong Bristol resident jumped at the chance.
“If I blew it, my friends wouldn’t let me hear the end of it. I had no choice. I had to do it right,” D’Ascendis joked. “They like certain sandwiches and I brought in the best.”
The menu appeals to the Philly-area palate. There’s roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwiches with sharp provolone cheese, fresh hamburgers on brioche rolls, Trenton Pork Roll sandwiches, roast beef, New York hot dogs with onion sauce, fresh-cut Idaho potatoes fried in peanut oil and more.
For dessert, there’s 17 flavors of Jack and Jill, soft serve, water ice, milkshakes, sundaes, banana splits, waffles with ice cream and funnel cake.
“My thing is to keep the prices in the range that people can afford, and still have quality food,” D’Ascendis said. “I believe in giving them big helpings and big dips on the ice cream.”
He also believes in making it fun for the kids. Upon purchase, children get a free balloon and a spin at the prize wheel for a chance to win free french fries or a banana split.
The idea was to bring a family-friendly ice cream shop to a town that didn’t have many options. The location, right off Mill Street, makes it walkable for people who want to shop in Bristol’s business corridor or take in a riverfront view.
“People said Bristol needed this. They like walking their dogs down at the river and having a nice ice cream, a good sandwich,” D’Ascendis said. “I want to help this town come back, to do my part as a Bristolian.”
Let’s Go To The Hop is located at 2 Pond St. in Bristol Borough. For information, call (215) 688-3892 or visit www.facebook.com/LetsGoToTheHop.