RICHMOND, Va. -- As temperatures soar in the River City. Richmonders are finding a sanctuary in scoops. At Brook Road and Marshall Street, customers are lining up to cool down.
Stoplight Gelato offers flavors aplenty, but patrons say the sweetest treat isn’t found on a menu or even in a cone.
Barbara Given works from opening to close. That is nearly 15 hours a day and six days a week.
“Absolutely. A labor of love and it has been a labor no question about that,” said Given.
It is quite a workload for someone who is 82-years-old and who lives with scoliosis.
“I just feel fortunate that I can walk,” she said.
Given said when you’re the boss it’s always go, go, go when the chores never stop.
Never mind keeping up with this motivated senior citizen.
“There is a lot going on for sure,” said Given.
The former educator with a PhD at George Mason seemingly never slows.
“Actually, I don’t come in here every day. I come downstairs every day because I live upstairs,” explained Given.
This isn’t her first foray into frozen desserts. As a teen she managed an ice cream shop in her native Kansas.
“You could get six big scoops for 19 cents,” she said.
But why would anyone want to tackle so much responsibility especially at her age?
The answer arrived two years ago.
Her beloved son Bryce, who envisioned opening this very gelato shop, lost his battle with cancer at just 52. Bryce died on Easter morning in 2015.
“He worked as hard as he could until he couldn’t physically work anymore,” said Given. “How much do you miss your hand or arm or whatever? That is not calculable.”
She might not have her son, but she could hold onto his idea.
“After my son passed away I said what are you up here for you need to get down there and finish what you started,” said Given.
So, she rolled up her sleeves. The 100-year old building needed renovating. Given also needed to learn gelato from A to Z.
“It sounds so easy, but it wasn’t easy at all. I kept thinking maybe we’ll need this. Maybe we’ll need that,” recalled Given. “A lot of work. A lot of work.”
Not everyone including daughter Bethany Stranick, thought opening Stoplight was the brightest idea. But Given was determined.
“I was the first to tell her just lock it up and sell it,” said Stranick.
So Stranick left her career in dentistry to partner with Mom in the one year old budding business.
“I’ve never met anyone with the tenacity and force of will. And that is what is so inspirational,” said Stranick. “It truly is a gift being able to work with her every day.”
Stranick now makes each flavor from scratch.
“I do not like it. I do not have a sweet tooth,” said Stranick. “Here I am making gelato.”
Neighbors and her returning customers like Manisee Bosewell commend Stoplight’s heart and soul.
“This is her block. We come here because of her. I am telling you,” said Bosewell. “She works so diligently. I come in here and everything is so good and she is so nice.”
Don’t even mention the “R” word (retire) to Barbara Given.
“I think I would grow old if I weren’t working,” she said.
This unlikely business owner thrives serving customers love in every scoop all while carrying on Bryce’s dream before it melted away.
“It has been a very good decision. I am glad I did it,” said Given. “Oh, I think about him every day. All of the time.”