On a cold, bright, windy December morning, around 11 am, I found myself on an unlikely search for ice cream. I found it at Chill On Park, a sunny shop located in Fields Corner at Dorchester Ave. and Park St.
Everyone, young and old, has a memory of ice cream – liquified strawberry running down their wrist on a 90 degree day; that first bite of peppermint stick in the winter; vanilla bean melting into a pool on top of a just-baked brownie; or, in my case, the frozen-in-time image of a fresh scoop falling with an audible ‘plop’ onto the sidewalk below.
These memories, among many other things, are what Wendy and Alan Issokson are looking to create on their corner of Dorchester.
“The space opened up, and Alan said to me, ‘I think we need more gathering spaces in Fields Corner,'” says owner Wendy Issokson.
Founded in May 2015, the Zagat-rated Chill On Park has become a stalwart gathering place in the Fields Corner neighborhood, providing not only ice cream but internships, children’s story hours, birthday parties, and valuable employment opportunities and skills for Dorchester’s youth community.
Yaira Peaks, 18, who will be matriculating at Bunker Hill Community College in January, has worked at Chill On Park since the spring of this year.
“The customers, the environment, the community [are] really friendly, and [Chill On Park] is really open and welcoming,” says Peaks of her job. “And the ice cream. In my opinion we have the best vanilla ice cream that I’ve ever tasted in life. A good vanilla ice cream is important to me. If the vanilla is good then all the ice cream is good.”
Chill On Park strives to ensure that all of the product sold in the shop is locally sourced. All 32 flavors of ice cream are made by Puritan Ice Cream in Roslindale, the coffee is roasted by Karma in Sudbury, and baked goods are provided by Haley House Bakery Cafe in Roxbury. Waffle cones are made in house at Chill On Park, with plans for making waffle cone tacos in spring 2018. Don’t feel like leaving the house for a few scoops of Kahlua Fudge Brownie? Chill On Park is also available through GrubHub and UberEATS.
“We both love ice cream,” says Issokson of herself and Alan, “and having high quality, local products, and hiring from the community.”
A sense of community and local entrepreneurship has always been important to the Issoksons, whose family has roots in Fields Corner back to 1923 when Alan’s grandfather opened a real estate and insurance company located right around the corner from Chill On Park. Issokson is very active on social media, and shop’s Instagram features a local business every week, from Coco Leaf on Dot Ave to Heading Home, a non-profit working to end homelessness in the greater Boston area.
“We think that there are lot of great organizations that are here. Dorchester is the biggest neighborhood and it’s a huge melting pot. Everything is here, and we love that,” says Issokson.
Issokson hires much of her staff, a seasonal group of 8 to 12 employees, from the Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester, as well as the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute. The Chill On Park space is also host to monthly story hours with Cindy, the children’s librarian at the Fields Corner branch of the Boston Public Library, and Memory Cafe, where residents of Standish Village with memory loss and dementia can gather in a safe space with their families and caregivers for coffee and pastries. When the All Dorchester Sports and Leadership Field House lost its heat, Issokson invited the students and tutors to finish their session at Chill On Park.
“Anything we can do to try to have this be a gathering spot. We’re open,” says Issokson.
Food is said to have the power to bring people together, and with the help of ice cream, Wendy and Alan Issokson have created a warm, friendly community space in the heart of Dorchester.
“It’s been fun and rewarding and we have great ice cream!” says Issokson with a laugh.
Chill On Park is located at 142 Park St., Dorchester, MA. ChillOnPark.com.