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The Student News Site of Darien High School

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The Student News Site of Darien High School

Neirad

General scholarships, applicable to any college you want to attend, are a great way to pay off what your schools financial aid does not include.
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Katie Cavolo, Journalist • January 17, 2024
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Darien’s Renovation: it Looks Pretty, But is the Change Practical?

Our town looks unrecognizable, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing.
Inside+Van+Leeuwens+%28Darien+location%29
Lily Saverine
Inside Van Leeuwens (Darien location)

I assume most kids in Darien High School have noticed the same thing- a lot about this town has changed since we were in elementary school.

There are a few places I remember being prominent in my early childhood: for example, the Sugar Bowl, Bertucci’s, and the Darien Movie Theater. All three are sadly no longer in Darien for unexplained reasons, because the owner retired, and it was no longer a viable business, respectively.

The areas that once held the Sugar Bowl and the Darien Movie Theater have been repurposed, but the Bertucci’s vacant lot has stayed eerily empty since September 19, 2022. Bertucci’s recently went bankrupt in 2018 which explains the exit from our town, and due to how recent the exit was, it might be a while before it’s repurposed. 

Darien isn’t new to lots being empty for an extended period of time. The Noroton Heights Shopping Center had started its demolition process in late 2019 and was presumed to continue through the following years. Due to COVID-19, the construction lender supporting the project had backed out, and the old buildings were still left there, deserted and with a fence around them. 

Being in middle school at that time, I remember many kids at even my age being upset about the future demolition of the shopping center. Mainly, most were upset because it meant an end to the popular Darien Donuts breakfast place. 

Currently, in October of 2023, the demolition of the NHSC has resumed and Darien Commons is fully constructed, with just a few more stores left to open to the public. 

For the most part, these new stores have been booming— Naya has gotten nothing but good reviews (as far as I’ve heard) and Sweet Green has been a very popular place to get a salad (or for high school students to seek employment).

Others, as I’ve observed… not so much.

Van Leeuwen is an ice cream shop that opened in 2008 as an ice cream truck in NYC. Since then it has made it across the country to eight US states, including Connecticut. It’s known for its wacky flavors from honeycomb to buttermilk berry cornbread to its infamous mac-n-cheese flavored ice cream. 

I remember the opening day of Van Leeuwens, when they advertised a scoop of ice cream for $1, which, as expected, caused a line of people from out the doors all the way down to the Walgreens. While the ice cream was good and had unique flavors, after that day, some of the prices were shockingly high.

Van Leeuwens’s vegan ice cream menu, along with prices and calorie counts for a milkshake, ice cream sandwich, root beer floats, and ice cream cone options (Lily Saverine)

The price of an ice cream sandwich is $11.25, more expensive than three scoops of ice cream, while the price of a milkshake is almost the same price— neither prices including toppings. If you want your ice cream in a waffle cone, that’ll also set you back $1.50. 

But the reason why Van Leeuwen’s ice cream is so expensive is because everything is made naturally, using egg yolks in the ice cream instead of a typical stabilizer, like LGB. Stabilizers are used to thicken liquids when cooking. 

And why does the place seem empty now? Most times when I walk by, whether in the afternoon or after sunset, the place is usually empty, sometimes with about 2-3 customers in there. I asked some students if they enjoy having Van Leeuwens in Darien and if they are likely to return, as teens and children would most likely be the main demographic.

It’s interesting seeing how Van Leeuwens compares to Gofer’s Ice Cream, a popular ice cream shop in Fairfield County. Gofer’s Ice Cream in Darien has been selling ice cream here since 2004. It sponsors a Darien softball little league team and has been a popular place of employment for teens. Gofer’s also makes ice cream cakes for special occasions, and has a few unique flavors of its own, like the infamous blue monster. 

Sophomore Winnie Wartels said she has not been to Van Leeuwens, but she’s heard from peers that that Van Leeuwen’s is good, but it “isn’t worth it,”  as it is very overpriced and “Gofer’s is more family-based and less expensive.”

Their ice cream is healthier, has a wide variety of flavors, and has that homemade feeling to it. And in Darien, that’s been labeled the richest town in Connecticut as of 2023, the few extra dollars shouldn’t be an issue to most locals buying ice cream there. 

Currently, Gofer’s seems to be more popular— but mostly because it’s familiar. With the rising popularity of diet culture and non-processed foods, and once the people of Darien can become familiar with Van Leeuwens, I believe that will become more popular as time goes on. 

Currently, though, the pricing is a big reason why kids don’t buy ice cream there, which can be detrimental to business; considering most of Darien’s population is between the ages of 10-17 years old, most cannot legally work for their own money and can’t blow $11.25 on an ice cream sandwich. 

This is a big issue with new stores coming into Darien. Inflation is a main factor and it’s not easy for businesses to just change their prices. Perhaps we don’t favor the old businesses because they’re “familiar,” but because they’re just cheaper. 

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About the Contributor
Lily is a sophomore who started writing for Neirad in 2023. She enjoys reading and listening to music.

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