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Iconic ice cream shop Banana Split in Aurora will return for another season

Aurora residents Randy and Lisa Brown’s retirement from their long-running ice cream shop, Banana Split, will have to wait.

The couple announced in October that they intended to sell the iconic Aurora business at 820 Church Road, which they have owned for more than 40 years, during the off-season and forge a new path of traveling and entertaining with their grandchildren.

Lisa Brown, 61, said she knew those plans would have to be put on hold by January; It’s something both she and her husband, Randy, 64, knew was possible from the beginning.

“We haven’t sold yet. We’ve had interested parties and a few buyers that we think are close, but like everything else, it doesn’t work on our timeline. You just deal with the punches and go from there,” Lisa Brown said. “I hope it sells during the season and we can still retire and do community work and play with our grandchildren.”

For now, the couple says the store is scheduled to open for the season on Feb. 29.

Brown said about seven offers have been made for the business, all from locals, including “a few restaurant entrepreneurs with multiple stores,” but the majority are “people who want the American Dream.”

“The sticking points are people who are not willing to pay the money we want, which is to buy a 40-year-old profitable business. “It’s not going for $100,000,” he said. “If you had to open an ice cream shop like this today, it would be over $1 million and there is no history to that. It’s not a cheap job.”

Randy Brown acknowledged that money was an issue, but equally important that the Browns “wanted to sell to the right people.”

“We have a positive reputation and history in the community and we want that to continue,” he said. “Some buyers have expressed that they want to buy the property and then have someone else be here and run it. “We’ve never done that and we don’t believe that’s the way to go.

“I was disappointed that I couldn’t find the right fit,” he said. “It took longer than I thought.”

“It needs to go to the right person,” Lisa Brown said. “We want to be sure because of our reputation. We want our good name to continue. We want the next person, persons or family to have a wonderful life. I don’t want anyone to lose their shirt. “I want them to continue what Randy and I started and the great experience we had from it.”

Co-owner Randy Brown is prepping some freezer equipment in anticipation of the Feb. 29 season opening of his Banana Split ice cream shop in Aurora. He and his wife, Lisa, aimed to sell the business during the off-season but were unable to find the right buyer. (For David Sharos/Beacon News)

Last fall, the couple said customers mourned what they thought was the last straw of the ice cream shop’s curtain call, but it was an unlikely outcome.

“People thought we would close the store and never open it. “The only thing that was said was that we were thinking of retiring,” he said. “The day the story came out about us, I told Randy it was like a visit. People were crying at the window because they thought we were going to leave saying, ‘You can’t close it, this is where we had our first date’ or ‘We came here after having our first child.’ “It was very encouraging.”

“It was a surreal experience. “It was like a funeral, and we had our second best day in the history of our store the day before it closed in October,” Randy Brown said. “People weren’t cranky. They waited in the queue for half an hour from 13:00 to 10 minutes before closing, and thinking that the store would be closed, they were really happy for us and sad for themselves. “This is what it would feel like if you could hold a funeral for yourself and be there.”

The Browns said the majority of last year’s staff is ready to return for the opening, scheduled for Feb. 29.

“We had a great team last year and it was a good time to stop, but they are still ready to work,” Randy Brown said. “How could I deny them this opportunity? “We will shorten some of our hours that we have never used in the past and take a few days off.”

Lisa Brown said work continues to prepare for opening day.

“I’ll place my orders soon and I’m waiting for a repairman to come and fix the freezer; everything is ready,” he said.

David Sharos is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.

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